Tree growth analysis issues, again

Is there something particularly difficult about tree growth analysis that I’m missing?

I’ve already discussed at length (some of) the serious analytical problems involved in dendroclimatology. [Even with 14 posts, I only got < 1/2 way through all the issues, but am still hoping to finish it, eventually]. Now comes a paper from Nature heralding the major breakthrough that the “rate of tree carbon accumulation increases continuously with tree size“. This message was quickly–within a day or two–megaphoned to the public by the media, which precludes any any critical scientific commentary beforehand. Amidst the numerous Twitter “wow-cool”s, I was able to find exactly one comment questioning the study in any way, out of dozens. Here is the typical sort of reaction, involving the individual that wrote the USGS summary article (link below).

But as for me, I have quite a number of questions on this study, both regarding the science issues themselves and their presentation. Addressing these will require time and care, backtracking through the critical references to track down the logical foundation of the stated conclusions. Checking papers closely is not quick or easy, which is why it often just doesn’t happen, including where it’s supposed to: during peer review. Not that I’m sure the investment is worth it here either, since journalists and the Twitter crowd will be long gone, scavenging for their next “wow, cool” fix. That’s what they do.

Anyway, here at least are links to the article, and it’s publicity, to date. Note that if you lack full article access, Nature wants to charge you for it, of course. What they do not tell you though, is that since the lead author is a US government employee, the article is freely available therefrom. Surely that’s just an oversight by Nature though.

Article itself:
Nature page
Full article, USGS
Supplemental info
Details of equations used

Media stories:
Nature news story
Nature podcast
USGS WERC blog post
USGS media alert
USGS Twitter notice
UPI news story
Smithsonian article
Revkin, NYT article
Guardian article
Boxall, LAT article
Mongabay article


2 thoughts on “Tree growth analysis issues, again

  1. I appreciate your time and efforts writing these posts. I’m hoping many others do as well so that you continue posting these articles.

    • Thanks barn, appreciate the good word. I’ve actually been giving the endeavor some thought here recently–not sure what’s going to happen. The blog world is a hard place to try to hold conversations in.

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