Study helps predict when trees will die

Study helps predict when trees will die

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Researchers at the Center for Ecological Research and Forest Applications have conducted two studies on the historical growth patterns of trees that improve the ability to predict their future death many years in advance. According to Jordi Martínez-Vilalta, a doctor in Environmental Sciences from the Department of Animal Biology, Plant Biology and Ecology of the UAB and CREAF, "a tree has its life history written in the wood that accumulates in the trunk." Thus, from their study, the researchers look for variables, such as their growth rate, that allow them to predict which species and which forests may be in danger of death due to drought episodes associated with climate change. The expert predicts that the effects of climate change on forests will be through a decrease in the availability of water, caused both by the increase in temperatures and by a decrease in rainfall. The growth rates are recorded in the annual rings that are formed in the wooden trunks of many species and reflect the alternation of seasons conducive to growth (especially spring) with others that are not (winter and, to a lesser extent, , summer). The two CREAF-UAB works have compared the growth rings of trees that have died with those of others that have survived a drought, to see to what extent historical growth patterns predict mortality. In the first of the studies, they compared various methodologies and proposed a protocol to statistically test this relationship between growth and mortality. In the second work, the researchers analyzed data from 2,970 dead trees and 4,224 live trees, from 190 localities and belonging to 36 species. The researchers concluded that in the vast majority of cases (84%) the growth of the trees that ended up dying was lower than that of the surviving trees in the period immediately before their death.
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