Earthquakes may actually benefit tree growth, new study finds

Once the tremors have subsided, the most obvious evidence of an earthquake is the altered landscape it left behind. Significantly less visible seismic displacement markers do occur, however, and they are not found in geological records.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Scientists have identified the lingering impact of earthquakes

In recent research, scientists identified a shocking sequel to earthquakes that lasts long after aftershocks have subsided: a significant increase in tree growth produced by earthquake-induced variations in water availability. underground.

Although it has long been recognized that earthquakes can alter the fortunes of trees, there is still a lot that humans do not know about how earthquakes affect tree development and how much is stored in the tree. living, a biological library of tree trunks.

According to a study team led by hydrologist Christian Mohr of the University of Potsdam in Germany, large earthquakes can increase the amount of water supplying stream flows, raise groundwater levels and therefore provide plant roots with better access to water in situations of water scarcity.

If water is the main challenge in tree development, plants should be able to register hydrological responses to earthquakes by altering their growth rates.

Read also: Experts: Taiwan earthquakes triggered by seasonal changes in water levels

Measuring the effects of a powerful earthquake

Scientists have studied Pinus written off pines in Chile to test their hypothesis that seismic changes in the groundwater supply increase tree growth when trees are closer to streams in the valley – but impede tree growth if trees are higher on the hills – and to measure the effects of the powerful 8.8 magnitude earthquake that severely affected the Maule region in 2010.

Based on both the evidence of tree rings (increased light area) and the ratio of carbon isotopes in tree cells, analysis of tree cores taken in 2014, taken from trees in the valley floor as well as the ridges of the slopes, showed that some of the trees in the valley experienced increased temporary growth after the earthquake, giving a perspective at the cellular level on aspects of tree health and growth.

However, some trees on the slopes did not perform very well over the same time period, which lends credibility to the researchers’ idea, although the team notes that the overall impact of the earthquake has was a minor and only lasted a few weeks.

Still, the researchers believe their findings suggest that postseismic changes in light surface and carbon isotope ratios can be used to examine tree development and photosynthetic responses to earthquakes as an illustrative case study. how these approaches can be used in the field.

As a result, researchers may have a new tool to study previous earthquakes.

The researchers say that “details of wood anatomy and isotopes could offer a tree-like approach to paleoseismology beyond just consideration of width.”

Aftermath of an earthquake

(Photo: Getty Images)

How do earthquakes affect tree growth?

Earthquakes affect tree growth in various ways, and the effects are recorded across the width of the tree rings that survive.

Tree rings have the potential to be a reliable dating technique, and when trees are old enough, they can be a useful tool in determining the dates of large prehistoric earthquakes in wooded areas.

The Buller region on the west coast of the South Island is a wooded area that was hit by two major earthquakes in the 20th century: the Buller earthquake of 1929 and the Inangahua earthquake of 1968 .

A study of tree growth rings there is an excellent method to learn more about the reaction of New Zealand trees and to record the consequences of a severe storm.

Associated article: Can pets predict an impending earthquake? Weirdly astonishing perception of animals could be the key

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