The longest autumn

November farm

That was the view of Laurel Ridge on the day after Thanksgiving, showing that well over half the oaks not only retained their leaves, but retained their colors, as well. Most years, the trees would be bare by now.

According to an online draft of a paper accepted for Global Change Biology, “delayed autumnal senescence” may be due to an increase in atmospheric CO2. Quoting from the abstract:

Using freely rooted, field-grown Populus in two Free Air CO2 Enrichment Experiments (AspenFACE and PopFACE), we present evidence from two continents and over two years that increasing atmospheric CO2 acts directly to delay autumnal leaf coloration and leaf fall.

In an atmosphere enriched in CO2 (by ~ 45 % of the current atmospheric concentration to 550 ppm) the end of season decline in canopy Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) – a commonly used global index for vegetation greenness – was significantly delayed, indicating a greener autumnal canopy, relative to that in ambient CO2. This was supported by a significant delay in the decline of autumnal canopy leaf area index (LAI) in elevated as compared to ambient CO2, and a significantly smaller decline in end of season leaf chlorophyll content. Leaf level photosynthetic activity and carbon uptake in elevated CO2 during the senescence period was also enhanced compared to ambient CO2. The findings reveal a direct effect of rising atmospheric CO2, independent of temperature in delaying autumnal senescence for Populus, an important deciduous forest tree with implications for forest productivity and adaptation to a future high CO2 world.

“Future atmospheric CO2 leads to delayed autumnal senescence,” by Gail Taylor, Matthew J. Tallis, Christian P. Giardina, Kevin E. Percy, Franco Miglietta, Pooja S. Gupta, Beniamino Gioli, Carlo Calfapietra, Birgit Gielen, Mark E. Kubiske, Giuseppe E. Scarascia-Mugnozza, Katre Kets, Stephen P. Long, and David F. Karnosky, Global Change Biology (OnlineAccepted Articles). See also Why Autumn Colors Are So Late, which summarizes the findings. (Hat tip: Meanwhile, back in the holler.)

— Dave


About Dave Bonta

I'm the author of several books of poetry, including Ice Mountain: An Elegy, Breakdown: Banjo Poems, and Odes to Tools, but my real work is at my long-running literary blog Via Negativa, where I'm currently creating erasure poems from every entry of the Diary of Samuel Pepys. I'm also the editor and publisher of Moving Poems, a blog showcasing the best poetry videos on the web.

Posted on November 26, 2007, in fall foliage, forest health, global warming, trees. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks for this Dave! I’ll be sure to link to it next time I write about leaf marcescence.

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