Handful of heavyweight trees per acre are forest champs

I didn’t even realize trees fought.

Sorry. What they are trying to say is that bigger trees have a greater mass (I just don’t know how they do it!).

Big trees three or more feet in diameter accounted for nearly half the biomass measured at a Yosemite National Park site, yet represented only one percent of the trees growing there.

This means just a few towering white fir, sugar pine and incense cedars per acre at the Yosemite site are disproportionately responsible for photosynthesis, converting carbon dioxide into plant tissue and sequestering that carbon in the forest, sometimes for centuries, according to James Lutz, a University of Washington research scientist in environmental and forest sciences. He’s lead author of a paper on the largest quantitative study yet of the importance of big trees in temperate forests being published online May 2 on PLoS ONE.

“In a forest comprised of younger trees that are generally the same age, if you lose one percent of the trees, you lose one percent of the biomass,” he said. “In a forest with large trees like the one we studied, if you lose one percent of the trees, you could lose half the biomass.”


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4 responses to “Handful of heavyweight trees per acre are forest champs

  1. Trees also are subject to a high infant mortality. One tree will generate thousands or tens of thousands of offspring in its lifetime, but the overall population of trees remains stable because only one of these (on average) will thrive to breed itself.

  2. Mark Whitney

    According to Rush, trees do fight:
    There is unrest in the forest,
    There is trouble with the trees,
    For the maples want more sunlight
    And the oaks ignore their pleas.

    The trouble with the maples,
    (And they’re quite convinced they’re right)
    They say the oaks are just too lofty
    And they grab up all the light.
    But the oaks can’t help their feelings
    If they like the way they’re made.
    And they wonder why the maples
    Can’t be happy in their shade.

    There is trouble in the forest,
    And the creatures all have fled,
    As the maples scream “Oppression!”
    And the oaks just shake their heads

    So the maples formed a union
    And demanded equal rights.
    “The oaks are just too greedy;
    We will make them give us light.”
    Now there’s no more oak oppression,
    For they passed a noble law,
    And the trees are all kept equal
    By hatchet, axe, and saw.

  3. The One Percenters are hoarding
    over half the mass!

    It’s time to Occupy Yosemite!

  4. Has anyone ever studied whether younger trees, which are growing faster, use more carbon dioxide, water and nutrients than older mature trees? Since this is true in all animals (think how much more your kids eat than you do) it seems highly probable that to sequester carbon, the ridiculous grail of environmentalists, we are actually better to harvest the older trees and plant new ones in their places. Recycling paper may actually be the wrong method.

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