The Future is to Be Found in the Past

Jun 29, 2024

It is critical. Climate change effects are already affecting trees and by studying the effect it has had Aster Gebrekirstos and her colleagues find a looking glass into the future.

With an uncertain future it gets even more important how plants react to climate change. But what do you do when you do not have any data to study? Northern Europe have studied their trees for a hundred years. But in Africa only for 30–40 years. Aster Gebrekirstos and her colleagues look to the past to find future solutions.

By attaching different tools like dendrometers, they start up a communication with the tree and ask them to tell us their story. How are they feeling today, how do they react to today’s weather? And with tree-rings the tree tells the stories of the past, about that one time in 19th century when there was a drought, and it also tells us how it coped with it.

Trees are like people. Some species, some are opportunists. In good times they spend and grow like crazy. Some really conservative they grow better in difficult years. And the conservative tree could better cope with climate change.

So, by asking the tree, Aster and her colleagues get a looking glass into an uncertain future.

Aster Gebrekirstos, global researcher, forester at CIFOR-ICRAF