Oct. 9, 2018 (Phys.org) -- Warmer temperatures brought on by climate change will lead to drier soils and reduce tree photosynthesis and growth in forests later this century, according to a new University of Minnesota study published in the journal Nature.
That important conclusion comes as scientists have speculated the opposite: that a warming climate might speed up a forests' photosynthesis and facilitate growth in cold-weather climates found in North America, Europe and Asia.
"These results have important implications for the future," said Peter Reich, a professor of forest resources in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and the study's lead author. "Typical dry spells already occur frequently enough to erase most of the potential benefits to tree growth of warmer summer temperatures. In a warmer future, the extra evaporation from warmer plants and soils will make those dry spells drier, further suppressing photosynthesis."
Cool summers slow the growth of forests in cold places. That's why scientists had hypothesized that warmer climatological conditions might help increase a forest's growth rate in the future.