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Andrea Germanos – Battered By Drought, Forests Lose Ability to Fend Off Climate Change

Forests play an important role as “carbon sinks” by absorbing and storing CO2 emissions, but a new study finds that that droughts—expected to become more frequent with climate change—deal that climate-buffering power a blow.

The findings, published this week in the journal Science, show that forests don’t recover as quickly after a drought as had been previously thought, indicating a need to adjust climate models.

Researchers gathered tree ring data from over 1,300 sites across the globe to measure growth in periods after severe droughts that have occurred since 1948, and found that for the majority of the forests they studied, trees suffered years-long effects post-drought.

The researchers write: “We found pervasive and substantial ‘legacy effects’ of reduced growth and incomplete recovery for 1 to 4 years after severe drought.”

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