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Study yields mixed results on potential for pine trees to store extra carbon dioxide

MONTREAL -- Southern pines appear to grow and conserve water somewhat better in the carbon-dioxide-enriched atmosphere expected by mid-century, a Duke University study has found. However, any growth spurts appear to diminish over time, due at least in part to the kind of hot and dry weather that likely may become more common in the future. Thus, the researchers concluded, enhanced growth of pines may not constitute a long-term sink for human-produced carbon dioxide which might ameliorate global warming.

These findings of a growth ring and wood chemistry study will be described by Duke graduate student Ashley Ballantyne at 9 a.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2005, during the Ecological Society of America's 2005 national meeting in Montreal.

Ballantyne, a fourth-year doctoral student in paleoclimatology at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, did his study with research associate Jeffrey Pippen at the Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FACE) experiment http://face.env.duke.edu/main.cfm.

At the FACE site in Duke Forest, near the university campus, stands of loblolly pines and other tree species are receiving extra CO2 through tower-borne valves under otherwise natural conditions. Results from the enriched trees are compared with those in matched controlled plots not treated with enhanced carbon dioxide.

The FACE experiment is designed to emulate the atmospheric environment that plants will be subjected to if CO2 levels continue to increase as expected due to human activities such as fossil fuel burning. Ballantyne's and Pippen's work was funded by the United States Department of Energy.

Ballantyne said he and Pippen evaluated the pine trees' response to higher-than-normal CO2 levels by measuring annual growth rings in cores extracted from treated and control trees.

Their analysis revealed that pines under elevated CO2 levels experienced 25 perce
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Contact: Monte Basgall
monte.basgall@duke.edu
919-681-8057
Duke University
9-Aug-2005


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