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Plant physiology

Large and efficient

The pine Pinus monticola: one of the tallest and fastest growing trees in the world

rob haydenThe pine Pinus monticola: one of the tallest and fastest growing trees in the worldrob hayden

Decades or up to a century old, large trees continue to grow and absorb carbon from the atmosphere.  Contrast this with what you would expect when thinking of people or animals, which grow quickly during infancy, but later do not increase their weight much other than getting a little overweight.  A tree with a 1-meter diameter tree trunk continues to produce 10 to 200 kg of organic material each year (average values after drying).  This mass is almost three times the growth of a specimen of the same species with a trunk with half the diameter.  This is because the larger the plant, the more leaves it has.  Even though the productivity of each leaf declines with age, the total capacity of the tree to process and store carbon increases.  In extreme cases, a single large tree can incorporate the same amount of carbon over a year as that contained in an entire medium-sized tree.  These results, obtained by an international group of researchers, increase the importance of established forests—whether in tropical, subtropical or temperate zones—due to their ability to contribute to the fight against climate change.  The study included 403 species from all forested continents (Nature, January 15, 2014).