By Andrew Follett
Scientists have found that global warming is helping Canadian trees recover from a devastating insect infestation, according to research published Tuesday by the University of Victoria.
The research focuses on the forest of the Canadian province of British Columbia and found that warmer, wetter and more carbon dioxide (CO2) rich conditions caused by global warming are an enormous help to the province’s forests, according to the study.
The increasing rate of tree growth is actually slowing global warming as well, since more trees sequester CO2. Global warming will grow Canada’s forest enough to sequester an additional 1 billion metric tons of CO2 by 2020.
Canada’s forests have been devastated by pine beetles since the early 1990s and the insect has ruined half the country’s commercial logging industry, according to the government. The beetles damaged 18 million hectares of forest, but rising carbon dioxide levels have produced a “fertilization effect” that is helping the forests recover.
“By 2020, the enhanced growth due to climate change and increasing CO2 more than compensates for the carbon loss from dead rotting trees [from the pine beetles],” Vivek Arora, lead researcher of the University of Victoria’s Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, said in a Tuesday press statement. “This turn-around will happen much sooner than we had imagined.”
The scientists believe that rising CO2 levels likely have a similar positive effect on other high-latitude forests in Russia and Europe.
“In [British Columbia] the scientific evidence is that our forests are growing faster than in the past due to a warming climate,” Arora told the National Post Tuesday. “This is helping us recover from the carbon impact of the mountain pine beetle outbreak sooner than we imagined.”
Scientists have long understood that high carbon dioxide levels help boost foliage through a process called carbon dioxide fertilization. High carbon dioxide levels cause plant life to thrive, particularly in arid regions where carbon emissions are literally causing deserts to bloom with foliage.
The scientists’ findings were published in Geophysical Research Letters, a peer-reviewed scientific journal of the American Geophysical Union.