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Then and now: Using trees to map climate change

Studying various tree features can provide information on how trees react to climate change and climate conditions in general. A recent project has investigated these features in Russian forests to better understand warming and cooling cycles in the northern hemisphere.
Then and now: Using trees to map climate change
Tree data such as such as ring width, cell size and isotope data can give scientists clues about how forests react to changes in the climate. When combined with historical climate data, researchers in the EU-funded EU-ISOTREC project will be able to predict whether there is precedent for the current state of global warming.

Researchers looked at tree features and the environment during three warm phases that took place in the last 6 000 years. They also investigated the relationship between climate data and carbon and oxygen isotopes in cellulose in various areas. Consistent patterns between the climate changes and the trees' growth were found. Notably, study results indicate that the current period of warming seems to be no different to that which occurred over 6 000 years ago.

The physiological response of the trees to environmental changes was examined in various forested areas of Russia. Research found that isotope data could accurately predict how trees grew differently when the environmental conditions changed.

Overall, the project showed that recent warming is not unusual in comparison to previous warm periods in the particular area investigated, although water availability is lower. EU-ISOTREC has also provided new tools for forest management in the area.

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