Oldest Trees Are Growing Faster, Storing More Carbon as They Age

In a finding that overturns the conventional view that large old trees are unproductive, scientists have determined that for most species, the biggest trees increase their growth rates and sequester more carbon as they age.

In a letter published today in the journal Nature, an international research group reports that 97 percent of 403 tropical and temperate species grow more quickly the older they get. The study was led by Nate L. Stephenson of the U.S. Geological Survey Western Ecological Research Center. Three Oregon State University researchers are co-authors: Mark Harmon and Rob Pabst of the College of Forestry and Duncan Thomas of the College of Agricultural Sciences.

The researchers reviewed records from studies on six continents. Their conclusions are based on repeated measurements of 673,046 individual trees, some going back more than 80 years.

This study would not have been possible, Harmon said, without long-term records of individual tree growth. "It was remarkable how we were able to examine this question on a global level, thanks to the sustained efforts of many programs and individuals."

Extraordinary growth of some species, such as Australian mountain ash -- also known as eucalyptus -- (Eucalyptus regnans), and the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is not limited to a few species, the researchers said. "Rather, rapid growth in giant trees is the global norm and can exceed 600 kg (1,300 pounds) per year in the largest individuals," they wrote.

"In human terms, it is as if our growth just keeps accelerating after adolescence, instead of slowing down," said Stephenson. "By that measure, humans could weigh half a ton by middle age, and well over a ton at retirement."

The report includes studies from the Pacific Northwest. Harmon and his colleagues worked in forest plots -- some created as early as the 1930s -- at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest east of Eugene and Mount Rainier National Park. Researchers measured growth in Douglas-fir, western hemlock, Sitka spruce, western red cedar and silver fir. The National Science Foundation and the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the USDA Forest Service provided funding.

Under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Tropical Forest Science, Thomas and colleagues in Africa established a 123-acre forest research site in Cameroon in 1996. They measured growth in about 495 tree species.

"CTFS does very important work facilitating collaboration between forest ecologists worldwide and therefore enabling us to gain a better insight into the growth of trees and forests," Thomas said. "This model for collaboration was the basis of the Nature study."

While the finding applies to individual trees, it may not hold true for stands of trees, the authors cautioned. As they age, some trees in a stand will die, resulting in fewer individuals in a given area over time.

Source : Science Daily


Green Spaces Deliver Lasting Mental Health Benefits

Green space in towns and cities could lead to significant and sustained improvements in mental health, finds a new study published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology.

Analyzing data that followed people over a five year period, the research has found that moving to a greener area not only improves people's mental health, but that the effect continues long after they have moved.

The findings add to evidence that suggests increasing green spaces in cities -- such as parks and gardens -- could deliver substantial benefits to public health.

The research is one of the first studies to consider the effects of green space over time and has used data from the British Household Panel Survey, a repository of information gathered from questionnaires filled in by households across Great Britain.

Using data from over 1,000 participants, the research team at the University of Exeter Medical School focused on two groups of people: those who moved to greener urban areas, and those who relocated to less green urban areas.

They found that, on average, movers to greener areas experienced an immediate improvement in mental health that was sustained for at least 3 years after they moved. The study also showed that people relocating to a more built up area suffered a drop in mental health. Interestingly this fall occurred before they moved; returning to normal once the move was complete.

The authors adjusted their data to remove effects from other factors likely to affect mental health over time -- such as income, employment and education -- as well as factors related to personality. Lead researcher, Dr Ian Alcock, believes the study's results could have important implications:

"We've shown that individuals who move to greener areas have significant and long-lasting improvements in mental health. These findings are important for urban planners thinking about introducing new green spaces to our towns and cities, suggesting they could provide long term and sustained benefits for local communities."

In 2012 the World Health Organization cited depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide, and this study builds on research that has found natural environments could act as vital resources to improve health and wellbeing.

Yet up until now, scientists have been unsure how these effects vary over time. Co-author of the paper, Dr Mathew White, says this research has provided an important insight into the mechanism:

"We needed to answer important questions about how the effects of green space vary over time. Do people experience a novelty effect, enjoying the new green area after the move, but with the novelty then wearing off? Or do they take time to realise the benefits of their new surroundings as they gradually get to know local parks? What we've found suggests that the mental health benefits of green space are not only immediate, but sustainable over long periods of time.

Source : science Daily


Get ready for the water wars

Most of the world’s population takes water for granted, just like air. But a Hindustan Times blogger said that in India right now, as in so many other places around the globe, drinkable water has become such a “precious commodity” that it’s dragging the world into “water wars to follow the ones for the control of fuel oil.”

Climate change is drying up lakes and rivers almost everywhere. In Australia, for example, an unprecedented heat wave brought on massive wildfires and critical water shortages.

As water grows scarce, more countries are building dams on rivers to hog most of the water for themselves, depriving the nations downstream. Already, Egypt had threatened to bomb the Grand Renaissance Dam upstream on the Nile River in Ethiopia.

And as the Earth’s population crossed the 7 billion mark last year, more and more water sources are so polluted that drinking the water can kill you. No one’s counting, but various government and private estimates indicate that worldwide, tens of thousands of children die each and every day from drinking contaminated water.

By most estimates, half the world’s people live in places where clean water is not easily available. Bangalore, India, for example once had 400 lakes in its vicinity. Now, the New Indian Express newspaper wrote, only 40 are left, and all of them are polluted.

Hence the fights. One of the biggest areas of conflict is the India-Pakistan-China nexus. Multiple rivers intertwine the countries, and as water levels fall, all three are building dams to keep much of the water for themselves.

So where is all this water going? With ever-rising temperatures, more and more water evaporates and returns to the ground as rain. But most of it falls into the oceans. That’s one reason sea levels are rising worldwide, threatening vast coastal areas.

Source: Tribune Content Agency


Damascus Environmental Park: a link between fragrance of the past and perfumed bouquets of the present

The idea of founding an environmental park was initiated by members of the Syrian Association for Environment in collaboration with national and international organization in 2003, but the idea only saw light in 2005,  when a stone wall was built around both tributaries of Barada river where work continued for three years until the park accomplishment. Environment park Damascus is sited on Barada Riverbank near Damascus Castle, few meters away from the famous Umayyad Mosque, Azm Palace, Hamidiya souk and Mausoleum of Saladin. The park is a living testament to the bond between human and its renewable and natural resources.

The park is designed as various plants assortment from the Damascene house,  Damascus Ghouta, Barada valley and mountains surrounding. In the rosaries are cultivated flowerbeds of florae such as lily, jasmine, basil, Damascene roses. of Vegetable patches made of beans, peas and tomatoes rows, are grown between the orchards of bearers like olive trees, citrus trees, cherries and berries trees, alongside with non-edible kinds as willows and Mediterranean trees. Amid trees parterres of parsley, hibiscus, chard and wheat are planted.

The environmental park was established to raise awareness especially among new generations to the necessity of environmental care and protect. in addition to link education with environment to spread knowledge about biodiversity prevailing Damascus and its basin.

All natural park visitors assure that it is the first of its kind in Syria, perfumed with fragrances from past mixed with present;  in a place with no room for synthetic materials as only natural materials are used to create the various components of the park. There wood is used in the manufacture of kiosks, larches and birdhouses;  and all lanes are paved with natural stone besides only vegetation that bear the region climate were planted in the botanical garden.

The park area is about a thousand square meters, whereas the café area is about 170 square meters having a terrace divided into 12 islands, each island contains a collection of plants and has an identification card for each plant to recognize names of cultivated plants such as aromatic plants, wild, ornamental, and medicinal and lemon trees and.

Inside the park stands out a teashop with a damascene design architecture,  from which the aroma of freshly grinded coffee mixed with roses fragrance encounter  newcomers. The café is an essential part of the project as it is used to hold environment seminars and conferences by the environment society. As well as a guide to identify  Syrian national botany and plants diversity that entered Syria and adapted to the region climate.

The beginning of spring and summer is a new season for nature admirers from Damascus, provinces and Arab and foreign countries; who find a green haven as a serene refuge of the city hustle to enjoy the park splendor divided into multi-island including fruit trees, aromatic plants, and medicinal plants etc…

“I come to this park for of its impressive landscape and to enjoy the charming overlook of Damascus castle;  besides I come to write in an atmosphere of tranquility” said one visitor, reflecting the people's awareness of such places importance.

Rowan a university student, is keen on constantly visiting the park with her friends because it is a unique place in Damascus.  She considers as well that not allowing smoking is a wonderful gesture from staff in charge,  as well as a contribution to raise people awareness especially youth and children,  toward environmental issues.


Haifaa Mafalani           

Syria Committed to the Protection of Biodiversity

DAMSCUS, (ST)  -The Minister of State for Environmental Affairs, Dr. Nazira Sarkis, renewed Syria's keenness to abide by the terms of international conventions relating to the protection of biodiversity and its components and to highlight its importance in human life.

On the occasion of the World Day for migratory birds, the Minister said in a statement that Syria is one of the important countries for migratory birds due to the differences in its environmental systemsand terrain charming nature that contribute to ensure lasting and rich crossing points for many migratory birds and transient and visiting,  pointing out that Syria has taken many measures to protect birds at the national level, particularly the issuance of Law No. 12 of 2012 on the protection of the environment.

Dr. Sarkis pointed out that a new law is being prepared to regulate fishing in addition to preparing a law to regulate trafficking of living plants and animalsand endangered species, stressing the importance of cooperation of all parties to protect natural resources in Syria.

"Syria joined to many international conventions on the protection of biodiversity and its components and to highlight its importance in human life, particularly the Convention on the protection of biodiversity, the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Species of Wild Animals,  the "Ramsar " Treaty and the Barcelona Convention dealing with the protected areas," Dr. Sarkis clarified.

The World Day of Migratory Birds was launched in 2006 as a global initiative to celebrate the migratory birds and the promotion of protecting birds on a global scale and as an annual awareness campaign to highlight the need to protect migratory birds and their habitats.

Sh. Kh.