Tall Tree Tales

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Tall tree tales reported in Nature, vol. 428, p807 & 851, 22 April 2004. George Koch of Northern Arizona University and come colleagues from California have studied the world biggest trees, the giant redwoods of California, to see how tall trees can grow, and what are the limitations on tree growth. They found the most difficult problem for tall trees was maintaining the supply of water to the leaves at the top. As trees grow taller it becomes harder for them to keep water flowing against gravity. The flow of water is maintained by water evaporating from the leaves by a process known as transpiration. The leaves at the tops were also denser, making it harder for carbon dioxide to diffuse into the leaf cells. (Plant cells use carbon dioxide as a raw material to make sugars by photosynthesis.) As trees grow taller they also more easily damaged by storms, so the local climate is a limiting factor as well.

The fact that lack of water is such a strong limiting factor led Ian Woodward of the University of Sheffield to ponder why the tallest trees in the world grow in a region where it may not rain for 3 - 4 months of the year. The answer seems to be fog. During the dry season in California fog comes in from the sea and may linger for two weeks at a time. In foggy conditions the trees do not need to pump out as much water by transpiration and they also capture water from the fog for the rest of the environment.

Editorial Comment: This study of present day tall trees shows there would have been no problems for very large trees to grow in the very good world that God originally created. Genesis tells us the world was watered by a mist rising each day. The tops of the trees would have been well watered, like the trees growing in foggy California today.

Also, the original world would not have had storms that damage tall trees, and increasing numbers of scientists believe the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would have been higher in the past. This means Noah would have had no problem finding large enough timbers to build the ark, which should challenge sceptics who have claimed that Noah’s ark could not have survived the forces of ocean waves if it was made of short planks joined together. Creation Research has observed fossil tree trunks up to 400 ft (130 m) long, indicating the whole tree would have been large enough to make the sides of the arks without needing to be joined together. (Ref. trees, climate, ark)

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