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 (13757)
Print

Please login or register to post comments.

Name:
Email:
Subject:
Message:
x
Arctic Report Card

12

Dec

2018

Arctic Report Card

Arctic changes make records again.

Read more

Marketplace Now Open

Perfect Gifts


Riled Up Marketplace

Our marketplace offers Hi-Res prints on either polished metal or museum-quality paper.
Browse images of travel, adventure, and nature from elite photographers and visual media creators.


The Conservation Alliance

Archive Highlights

"Look to the Mountains"

"Look to the Mountains"

A photographer, mountaineer, and environmental ambassador says: "look to the mountains".

24 Apr 2015

Video Highlights

Recent Archive Highlights

Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

Where Do Good Ideas Come From? 24 November 2018

Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

A storyteller suggests an answer.

My Life As A Turkey

My Life As A Turkey 21 November 2018

My Life As A Turkey

A true turkey story for Thanksgiving.

Krakatoa Awakens, an update

Krakatoa Awakens, an update 28 October 2018

Krakatoa Awakens, an update

Krakatoa is again active.

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.

Visualizing Climate Change

Visualizing Climate Change

Climate change influences extreme weather.

  • 1251
Open Passage

Open Passage

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

  • 1431
Empathetic Whales

Empathetic Whales

Whales seem to show empathy towards other species.

  • 1492
Project Drawdown

Project Drawdown

Paul Hawken has a new mission, climate change.

  • 1363
A Renewable Energy System

A Renewable Energy System

Carbon-free power systems may be possible.

  • 282
Titan Revealed

Titan Revealed

Titan's surface has been revealed.

  • 446
NOAA's Mapper

NOAA's Mapper

NOAA's GOES satellites produce fine maps.

  • 331
'Mini-Moons'

'Mini-Moons'

79 moons and counting

  • 311
The Playful Wonderland

The Playful Wonderland

From fire to photographs.

  • 837
Of Rats & Reefs

Of Rats & Reefs

Remove rats...restore reefs!

  • 331
Fire Season

Fire Season

Raging fires in Colorado.

  • 327
Field Work

Field Work

Cross disciplinary now defines field work.

  • 1467
Batfish Chorus Line

Batfish Chorus Line

Taping a fish 'sing-a-long'.

  • 1342
Mapping Hidden Landscapes

Mapping Hidden Landscapes

With LiDAR creating maps limited only by the imagination.

  • 1490
Paul Greenberg: The Consequences of Over-eating 4 Fish

Paul Greenberg: The Consequences of Over-eating 4 Fish

Paul Greenberg discusses over-eating 4 fish.

 

  • 2419
Chasing Water

Chasing Water

River restoration by appropriate technology.

  • 405
4th of July

4th of July

Sunrise 4th celebration!

  • 302
Weather Report

Weather Report

The climate "signals" are flasing.

  • 310
Ecology Lessons, 1

Ecology Lessons, 1

The Dutch demonstrate of coastal ecology in action.

  • 1320
History of Consumerism

History of Consumerism

Alain de Botton: a history of consumerism and a possible future.

  • 1666
The Secret Point of Travel

The Secret Point of Travel

What we know is less than we thought.

  • 1387
Extraterrestrial Physics Decifered

Extraterrestrial Physics Decifered

The physics of ice cycloids explained.

  • 362
Conserving, the Mother Load

Conserving, the Mother Load

Avoiding another Dust Bowl.

  • 1206
Kilauea Observed

Kilauea Observed

Lava seen from the space station.

  • 335
Washed Ashore

Washed Ashore

Art used to save the oceans.

  • 2153
Climate Change Stripes

Climate Change Stripes

'Climate Pins' coming soon.

  • 370
12345678910Last

Archive