Highway 101 Redwoods in the Mist
Highway 101 Redwoods in the Mist (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Trees Grow Faster As They Age

Could help combat climate change

Highway 101 Redwoods in the Mist

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

Some of the oldest living organisms on the planet are trees, but how exactly do they grow? A new study in the journal Nature provides answers. Thirty-seven scientists from 16 nations collaborated and found that trees grow faster—not slower—as they age.

The study examined more than 600,000 trees from around the world and found that while trees eventually stop growing vertically, they continue to bulk up, like body-builders.

“It’s as if, on your favorite sports team, you find out the star players are a bunch of 90-year-olds,” Nate Stephenson, a forest ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and one of the study’s authors, told NPR.

To sustain their growth, older trees pull more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than their younger counterparts.

This research could influence how scientists address climate change. Forests full of elderly trees could potentially leech lots of carbon dioxide from the air, eventually reducing the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The Nature article supports last year’s findings that a lack of trees can prove fatal for humans. So, get out and plant trees—and think twice before you cut one down.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021
Filed to:
Lead Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto