Prime Australian hardwood forest scene
Will climate change rob rural forest of its growth rate advantage? Photo: ©Tony Neilson

It seems counter-intuitive, but trees are apparently better off living in the bustling environment of a big city than the peace and quiet of the countryside.

There is fresh scientific evidence that city trees grow fastest – and that their country cousins are in for a rough ride.

According to a Science magazine report http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/11/city-trees-grow-more-quickly-their-rural-cousins-here-s-why the ‘warming’ benefits to trees of climate change are fast diminishing.

Climate change researchers have analysed the growth of about 1400 trees in 10 different major cities across the globe. By taking core samples and estimating age and growth using tree rings, they measured how trees grew going back about 150 years.

Brisbane CBD across river
Study suggests urban tree are growing much faster than rural cousins. Photo ©Tony Neilson

25% faster growth

Climate change has generally been beneficial to trees because warmer temperatures stimulate photosynthesis and extend the growing season. But the research shows that after 1960, urban trees grew faster by as much as 25% compared with trees of the same age in the countryside.

This could be because of the urban ‘heat island’ effect, which causes temperatures in the city to rise as much 10°C compared with those in surrounding areas.

Stagnation threat

However, if the urban climate today is what rural regions may see tomorrow, the trend does not bode well, according to the study. There may come a point when the global tree growth rate stagnates and perhaps even declines under warming climates.

(Or you could close your mind, adopt the Donald Trump/Tony Abbott position on climate change and pretend it simply isn’t happening. Ed.)

©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.

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