Betula papyrifera

I returned late Wednesday from a trip to New Brunswick (and a smidgen of Québec), where I was attending a workshop on photography and visual design by Freeman Patterson and André Gallant. Not only did I have a great time and learn quite a bit, but I also had the opportunity to do a bit of photography (obviously).

Paper birch was previously featured on BPotD earlier this year (see: Betula papyrifera), so do check that entry for information about distribution and cultural uses. The Flora of North America entry for Betula papyrifera also provides extensive details about both those topics.

It is “easy” to broadly understand the implications of temperature-rise in association with global climate change (e.g., polar bears and melting ice), but there are biogeochemistry-related effects as well; for example, ocean acidification. In the case of birch trees, the decomposition of the leaves of Betula papyrifera has been studied to examine the effects of increased atmospheric CO2. The result? Seemingly poorer-quality leaf litter, implying associated cascading effects for forests, streams and nearby oceans (because of a slowdown of nutrient-cycling: see decomposition from the herbarium at Utah State University). For details of the study, see (PDF): Parsons, WFJ et al. 2004. Decomposition of Betula papyrifera leaf litter under the independent and interactive effects of elevated CO2 and O3. Global Change Biology. 10(10):1666-1677.

Betula papyrifera

13 responses to “Betula papyrifera”

  1. annie Morgan

    Kind of depressing reading, but a beautiful autumn photo – I’ve been through that area in autumn and it is magnificent.

  2. Er.We

    we’re (i.e. mankind is) looking forward to interesting times, it seems. We’ll see how we cope with it.
    Thx for this interesting post.

  3. Leo

    great picture, this combination of B. pap. and Acer rubrum, I believe

  4. elizabeth a airhart

    i am just going to sit back and enjoy the
    the blazing colors of october in the north
    mr patterson and mr gallant thank you
    your web sites are a fest for the eyes
    thank you daniel enjoy

  5. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    This is a lovely photo, and that must have been some workshop, with those two photographers.

  6. Millet

    The polar bears are doing fine, and are still increasing according to the last count. Global warming has, of course, occured many times in the past and will occur many times in the future. Very natural, very natural in deed.

  7. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    I very much enjoyed the previous entry that is mentioned above — January 9, 2009, with the photo of paper birch amidst rocks in winter, and details in the write-up. If the link in the above description doesn’t work (it didn’t work for me), try this one, that’s where I found that earlier entry
    I guess the debate about climate change will rage on, and some will have different opinions about it. I weigh in on the side that climate change is caused by unchecked elements of industrialized civilization, and hence is very unlike any similar change in previous eras… and so is cause for great concern. I believe the science clearly supports that view. We are poisoning our own nest.

  8. Daniel Mosquin

    Would that “last count” be from here?
    Summary of polar bear population status per 2005.
    According to my reading of the data:
    2 populations representing 287-603 individuals are increasing in numbers.
    5 populations representing 3484-6192 individuals are declining in numbers.
    5 populations representing 5206-11346 individuals are stable.
    There are insufficient data for 6-7 populations.
    Given that a) the aggregate data suggest an order of magnitude more polar bears are in populations that are declining than increasing; and b) the studies represent years from 1986-2004, so 6 of them predate many of the warmest years on record — I find it difficult to believe your assertion that polar bears are “doing fine, and are still increasing according to the last count”.
    Polar Bears in a Warming Climate via Integrative and Comparative Biology
    Effects of Earlier Sea Ice Breakup on Survival and Population Size of Polar Bears in Western Hudson Bay via Journal of Wildlife Management
    Predicting 21st-century polar bear habitat distribution from global climate models via Ecological Monographs

  9. Michael F

    Hi Daniel – the Wiley Science link to that Global Change Biology article doesn’t work, it gives a “Session Cookie Error” notice. Can you attach it to a forum thread as a downloadable pdf?

    To speculate though, I wonder if “poorer-quality leaf litter” with reduced decomposition rates would result in greater carbon storage in the soil, which would be a a useful plus if true.

  10. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Daniel, thank you very much for posting that data and the links. As I didn’t have it easily at hand, I couldn’t cite scientific data myself without a lot of digging.

  11. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Here is a book that I would recommend for every person — “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark”, by Carl Sagan.
    It’s about what “reason” means, how to think clearly, how to evaluate and use information.

  12. Daniel Mosquin

    Updated link, Michael.

  13. Michael F


Leave a Reply