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The researchers studied bristlecone pines at three sites in California and Nevada, close to the upper elevation limit of tree growth.
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Image Courtesy of Matthew Salzer, University of Arizona

Growth Spurt in Tree Rings Prompts Questions About Climate Change
News story originally written on November 13, 2009

Studying tree rings doesn't only tell us the age of that tree. Tree rings also show what climate was like while the tree was alive. This means that tree rings can tell us about climates of the past. Two scientists, named Matthew Salzer and Malcolm Hughes, have studied tree rings from bristlecone pine trees to find out why these trees have grown more than normal in the past 50 years.

They took core samples from living and dead trees at high elevations in the mountains of California and Nevada. The trees they studied were located at tree line, which is the edge of the area where trees can grow. Higher up from tree line it's usually too cold and dry for trees to grow. The scientists learned that bristlecone pines at tree line grow faster when temperatures are warmer. Trees that are lower down the mountain grow faster with higher amounts of precipitation and when temperatures are cooler.

They said that this could also impact humans in the future. High mountains store water as snow throughout the winter. If the amount of time that there is snow on the mountains is reduced, more precipitation will come down as rain or will evaporate and will take away from water supplies.

Last modified October 15, 2011 by Jennifer Bergman.

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