Older Trees Grow Faster Than Young Trees

Older Trees Grow Faster than Young Trees

A new research study has revealed a big surprise: older trees grow faster than their younger counterparts. A worldwide team of both plant and ecological biologists conducted an enormous examination of approximately 405 prehistoric trees located all over the Earth. They wanted to find out how very old trees were contributing to the carbon cycle. This is where trees take in carbon from the atmosphere and then releases oxygen back into it. What they found out went against every aging rule that has come from the animal and plant world.

The study found out that the older trees are the most powerful features in the carbon apparatus that is the forest. Not only do older trees grow larger more quickly than do younger saplings, but they also suck in amounts of carbon at an extraordinary rate. The nearly 405 temperate and tropical tree species showed that for the majority of species, the physique growth rate increased nonstop with the tree’s size. So old, large trees do not simply act as carbon tanks but actually take in large carbon amounts when they are in comparison to trees of smaller sizes. A single enormous tree can increase the amount of carbon into the forest within one year as what is taken in by a middle size tree for its entire growth span up until that time.

This basically means that one old, big tree is able to remove the same amount of carbon out of the atmosphere in just one year that a middle sized tree has taken out in its entire life thus far. However, if that mid-sized tree is able to live to be an old tree, it too should start taking in the carbon as well and sending out oxygen.

Numerous questions still remain. As trees begin to age, the leaves on them, which are the parts which take in the carbon, are not as productive as they were when they were younger. Also the tree is usually in an area that has similar trees around it in the forest. This is known as a stand of trees and this group also becomes less prolific overall as well. So out of this, why do lone, older trees become so strong and powerful? Scientists believe that the swift growth of the mature tree is because it has many more leaves than younger trees. This means that even though each leaf might have become less productive, there are many more leaves in general which aid the intake of carbon. In the meantime, while the entire tree stand ages, the group becomes less dense as certain trees inside it end up dying or are removed out of it as time passes. This means the remaining older trees are able to receive more access to sunlight and various other nutrients needed while their tree neighborhood grows smaller.

The sad thing about all this is that the logging industry in North America goes after old, large trees first. This means that there are many carbon giants that have been lost forever. In the future, it is hoped that loggers and foresters will begin to look at younger trees to cut down and that they will consider conserving the bigger, older ones because they are the ones that are helping to clean the environment much more efficiently. With this new research study, it has shown that the older trees get, the more quickly they grow than their younger counterparts.

By Kimberly Ruble


Mother Nature Network

Inland News Today

Life Science 

12 Responses to "Older Trees Grow Faster Than Young Trees"

  1. Matt   January 30, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Carbon sequestration is not the same thing as carbon storage.

  2. Eva Phoenix   January 15, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    the picture of the trees is gorgeous. I would like to use it for an arts project. Can you please tell me the source? Thanks

  3. Don Robertson   January 15, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    I have been telling people this about spruce trees for more than thirty years, The reason a larger spruce tree adds more growth every year is simple. A tree adds tree rings. Those rings are largely the width they are due to the amount of moisture they have available to them. A small spruce tree can add a quarter inch of tree ring growth with a given amount of water. So does a larger spruce tree add the same amount of tree ring growth given the same conditions. The larger tree trunk though, has a larger circumference. Hence, much more growth. This adds up to many more board feet being grown in a given year in more mature trees, until they start toppling over at full maturity.

  4. Gerald Moore   January 15, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    This article isn’t even worth commenting on.

  5. Jan Van Dusen   January 15, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    This article provides so few details that it is frankly not believable and should not have appeared on Google News. I would like to see more information about this alleged study, with at least a quotation from someone affiliated with the study, and a LOT more details.

  6. Louis   January 15, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    This could certainly be true for isolated large specimens of a commercial timber variety such as Douglas Fir (size matters), but It would be interesting to see if there was a comparison between a dense stand of old-growth (oops…ancient forest) and an equivalent (in area) stand of young fast-growing trees. Some existing studies on carbon uptake would suggest a different result. Also, the vast, vast majority of trees harvested in North America are young and on a fast cycle (less than 70 years for Doug Fir, faster for some pine). Most mills can’t even process very large trees anymore. Not that we can’t do a better job protecting true old-growth timber, but let’s be current and accurate.

  7. Warren   January 15, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    New science blends into old, conventional supposition in the popular press. The time when the North American logging industry (softwood construction lumber and paper anyways) went after the oldest largest trees has been over for decades. There simply are not enough of them, and the ones that still exist are not economically accessible. Large-scale timber processing equipment has been getting much faster and more efficient, but also much smaller, for many years. The new machinery is not usually even capable of processing the old growth, nor is it really still feasible to bring it out of the forest in large enough quantities to be worthwhile. What the logging industry is “going for” is a smaller, more uniform stem that can be quickly turned into lumber and paper. The resource base has long since shifted away from old growth to younger, medium sized, straight-stemmed trees with a 25-30 year replacement. Some call it “plantation timber”. Unlike fossil fuel, it’s an entirely renewable resource.

  8. McBill   January 15, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Most properly qualified forest scientists will tell you this is rubbish

  9. Robert.Boston   January 15, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Large, old trees also take up more space. If we compare the carbon absorption of 1 hectare of old-growth forest vs 1 hectare of younger growth, which is higher?

  10. BBusenkell   January 15, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Rate of tree carbon accumulation increases continuously with tree size

    N. L. Stephenson,
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    et al.

    Corresponding author


    05 August 2013
    27 November 2013
    Published online
    15 January 2014

  11. john   January 15, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    who did this study;where was it done and how do I get a copy? john


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