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

Coral Reef Update, 3

Coral Reef Update, 3

Explaining the biology and consequences of coral bleaching.

18 Mar 2017

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.

How To Be An ROV Explorer

How To Be An ROV Explorer

Become a DIY explorer.

  • 1193
Conservation Dollars

Conservation Dollars

In celebration of The Conservation Alliance

  • 481
Science at Sundance

Science at Sundance

Art & Science collaborations can produce amazing results.

  • 487
Landforms & Walls

Landforms & Walls

Geomorphology complicates building walls.

  • 1350
Compassion in Action

Compassion in Action

A pilot rescues a young chimp.

  • 525
Ecology Restored One Tree At A Time

Ecology Restored One Tree At A Time

A playbook for ecological restoration.

  • 960
Supernovas Animated

Supernovas Animated

Animations of White dwarfs exploding.

  • 557
Plant Fossils and Rapid Climate Change

Plant Fossils and Rapid Climate Change

Fossil records of extreme climate change past.

  • 557
A Life in Translation

A Life in Translation

Can high technology recover ancient wisdom?

  • 1632
Plant of the Month: National Eucalypt Day

Plant of the Month: National Eucalypt Day

A national day in celebration of tree.

  • 792
A Fungus Future?

A Fungus Future?

A natural alternative to plastic.

  • 1413
Louie Schwartzberg on Gratitude

Louie Schwartzberg on Gratitude

Being mindful of gratitude as a daily mantra.

  • 1234
New Solar Developments

New Solar Developments

3 exciting solar developments.

  • 610
Gene Editing with CRISPR

Gene Editing with CRISPR

CRISPR has been adopted by laboratories worldwide.

  • 2049
To The Future of Fly-fishing

To The Future of Fly-fishing

Fly-fishing's future and rivers.

  • 3580
Masters of Their Environment

Masters of Their Environment

Cephalopods are masters of disguise.

  • 2049
Carl Safina: What are animals thinking?

Carl Safina: What are animals thinking?

Carl Safina offers a new perspective on animal intelligence.

  • 1774
Two Giants of Science

Two Giants of Science

Stephen Hawking passed today.

  • 909
What do we need to know?

What do we need to know?

Kindness is good!

  • 691
Talking Trees

Talking Trees

Translating the chemical ecology of trees.

  • 735
Animal Cams

Animal Cams

Real-time videos for wildlife management and conservation.

  • 1793
Plant of the Month

Plant of the Month

Pseudohydrosme gabunensis from Africa is Plant of the Month.

  • 1966
Connecting Country

Connecting Country

A win, win, win project.

  • 641
Juno Delivers, Again!

Juno Delivers, Again!

Viewing data from Juno's mission to Jupiter.

  • 548
GOES-17 Launched

GOES-17 Launched

GOES-17 goes into orbit.

  • 690
Bombed Out

Bombed Out

Super-storm Riled bombs the East Coast.

  • 648
First234567891011Last

Archive