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Global research team uses Tibetan tree ring records to track climate change

July 20, 14:37 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The researchers used mathematical modeling to analyze data on the annual rings of trees from woodland in the Tibetan Plateau over a 54-year period

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MOSCOW, July 20. /TASS/. An international research team that includes Russian scientists from the Siberian Federal University (SFU) came up with an efficient method for evaluating the impact of climate change on the evolution of plants, the SFU press office reported. The researchers used mathematical modeling to analyze data on the annual rings of trees from woodland in the Tibetan Plateau over a 54-year period from 1960 to 2014, as well as climate archives.

The modern approaches for evaluating the impact of climate change on tree growth are far from perfect, they often yield contradictory results and have only a limited application range that provide meaningful results only for some particular types of forest terrain. This new approach is free of these drawbacks.

"Based on the data about the trees annual rings, we put together an innovational approach which makes it possible to calculate the beginning and end of a vegetative period of trees based on daily climate data <...> This approach could be applied to various forest terrain," the report stated in the scientific article recently published in the journal PNAS.

The scientists utilized the data on trees from the Tibetan Plateau, the world largest woodland situated at a height of 4,000 meters above sea level. The scientists cobbled together information from 20 various databases and obtained data on the annual rings for about 3,000 trees growing in various parts of the woodland. These numbers were cross-referenced with satellite observations and temperature archives for 1960-2014. The comparison were aimed at understanding how the Tibetan trees responded to any climate factors.

For example, when evaluating the ring size, it turned out that over two decades, from 1960 to 1981, the beginning and end of the trees’ spring development showed that it had remained almost the same. However, in 1982-2014 the situation had changed so noticeably that the decrease of spring temperature by one degree slowed down the development of a tree by 6-7 days.

With the aid of the data collected, the researchers worked out a computer modeling approach evaluating the rate of growth and the finite width of annual rings by climate data. Importantly, for the analyzed period of time, the predictions of this model coincide with the real measured data. According to the scientists, the new approach will not only make it possible to provide realistic forecasts on the evolution of trees but also for estimating the scale of impact on constantly changing climate conditions, primarily on temperature and humidity.

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