Menu

A journal of science, thought, and action.

Published on Thursday, October 31, 2013

Reading Trees

Plants speak to us if we're paying close attention. They wilt if not watered; turn yellow if not fed; and burn if in to much sun. Plants can be books if you learn how to read them, and trees are some of the best record keepers. New investigations by researchers at the University of Washington's  Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and the Ocean  show they can now inform us about climate change as well.

According to a report in  Geophysical Research/Bio-geosciences , Jim Johnstone of the Institute has developed a way to use redwoods as a window into past climate conditions. Using oxygen isotopes in the tree's wood to detect fog and rainfall in previous seasons, the new method has proved correct in a 50 year time-line test. The researcher comment in a UW announcement : “This is really the first time that climate reconstruction has ever been done with redwoods.”

  
Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens)                 Redwoods Range (credit: Save the Redwoods)
(credit: Wiki-commons)                                

The research used cores from California coastal redwoods tracing climate over the test period. Weather records gathered over from the same time showed that Johnstone's measure was accurate, suggesting it could be used to track conditions through the thousand or more years of a redwoods’ lifetime.

The lead researcher and his collaborators used a difficult approach more similar to reading ice cores and bores from trees to measure oxygen isotope ratios in the wood.
Rain and fog carry different ratios of the molecules so fog---the prime natural characteristic of redwood environments---absorbed by the wood retained a record of past chemistry of the thick moisture-laden atmosphere.

Related research has showed that the amount of West Coast fog is tied to ocean surface temperatures, so redwoods may provide information about long-term patterns of ocean change. Johnstone said: “It is possible that redwoods could give us a direct indication of how that’s worked over longer periods."

A recent TED presentation details more about these remarkable trees and the people who study them:



While the researchers have learned to read these tall "books" well the fate of the fogs that bath them is being affected by a changing climate and a new history is being written in their wood.

WHB



Comments (0)Number of views (13362)
Print

Please login or register to post comments.

Name:
Email:
Subject:
Message:
x
When a Chalk Dam Burst

21

Oct

2018

When a Chalk Dam Burst

Brexit as a bursting dam.

Read more
The Conservation Alliance

Archive Highlights

Intelligence of Plants

Intelligence of Plants

Amazing new understandings of intelligence in plants.

8 Aug 2017

Video Highlights

Recent Archive Highlights

Rewilding

Rewilding 4 September 2018

Rewilding

A 'silent spring' could become a 'wild summer' 

Conserving, the Mother Load

Conserving, the Mother Load 26 June 2018

Conserving, the Mother Load

Avoiding another Dust Bowl.

Environmental Art

Environmental Art 15 January 2018

Environmental Art

Creating paintings with natue connections.

Patagonia and Sustainability

Patagonia and Sustainability 31 December 2017

Patagonia and Sustainability

Patagonia shows how to apply sustainability in business practice.

Where Good Ideas Come From

Where Good Ideas Come From 22 December 2017

Where Good Ideas Come From

A clever storyteller suggests an answer.

Bottled Arctic Notes

Bottled Arctic Notes 15 December 2017

Bottled Arctic Notes

A bottled note tossed to the waves recovered years later.

Rewilding

Rewilding

A 'silent spring' could become a 'wild summer' 

  • 3704
Auroras Animated

Auroras Animated

Saturn's auroras imaged by Hubble.

  • 129
Global Weirding Report

Global Weirding Report

Climate change now unfolds in 'real time'.

  • 150
The Atlas of Emotions

The Atlas of Emotions

The Dalai Lama says: "if you want to find a new world, you need a map".

  • 1690
Save the Oceans, Feed the world

Save the Oceans, Feed the world

The Oceans are hurting.

  • 1984
in vino veritas

in vino veritas

Blending art & science....making wine!

  • 3936
Going, Going, Gone...

Going, Going, Gone...

A retreating glacier may soon be gone.

  • 127
Reversing both Desertification and Climate Change

Reversing both Desertification and Climate Change

A hopeful method for restoring degraded lands.

  • 1722
Cryovolcanoes

Cryovolcanoes

Chasing ice-volcanoes!

  • 1230
Secrets of Rare Plants

Secrets of Rare Plants

They still offer important discoveries.

  • 1459
Ecology Lesson, 2

Ecology Lesson, 2

Permafrost and marine ecology are interconnected.

  • 1140
Ecology Lesson

Ecology Lesson

The consequences of deforestation.

  • 181
Smoke Goes Global

Smoke Goes Global

Satellites see forest fires on-high.

  • 173
Sand Sea

Sand Sea

Namibia's Skeleton Coast.

  • 1343
Why Science?

Why Science?

Carl Sagan was interviewed about this.

  • 3166
Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire

15 year earthquake data visualized

  • 157
CAL-Fires & Smoke Detection

CAL-Fires & Smoke Detection

The Smoke Map

  • 532
Calling All Reef Hands

Calling All Reef Hands

3 Ideas for rescuing coral reefs

  • 212
Non-Life to Life

Non-Life to Life

What "sparked" biology?

  • 1169
Removing 'Deadbeat Dams'

Removing 'Deadbeat Dams'

A film on removing 'Deadbeat Dams'.

  • 1354
The State of the Climate

The State of the Climate

Nicholas Stern and The State of the Climate.

  • 1168
Visualizing Climate Change

Visualizing Climate Change

Climate change influences extreme weather.

  • 1137
Open Passage

Open Passage

Mid-21st Century predictions of an open Arctic need revision.

  • 1360
Empathetic Whales

Empathetic Whales

Whales seem to show empathy towards other species.

  • 1418
Project Drawdown

Project Drawdown

Paul Hawken has a new mission, climate change.

  • 1273
A Renewable Energy System

A Renewable Energy System

Carbon-free power systems may be possible.

  • 191
12345678910Last

Archive