When you think of an earthquake, what’s the first word that comes to mind?
Devastation — right?
Considered one of nature’s most unpredictable and devastating natural disasters, earthquakes can cause thousands of deaths and millions of dollars in damaged property.
However, earthquakes might have a positive effect as well. They may promote tree growth. Once the aftershocks have faded, a measurable increase in tree growth might occur.
Scientists believe that after an earthquake, trees and plants can access water easily. That’s because large earthquakes raise the groundwater levels, and as a result, plant roots should be able to access more water. Since water is essential for their growth, in theory, alterations to groundwater levels caused by earthquakes should improve their growth rates.
To confirm whether or not earthquake alterations to groundwater levels result in faster growth in trees, researchers focused on pine trees in the Maule region of Chile, which experienced a devastating earthquake of magnitude 8.8 in 2010.
Based on tree cores collected in 2014, researchers concluded that some trees — especially those in the valley — experienced increased growth following the earthquake. However, this growth was temporary, lasting for just a few weeks. Also, not all trees in the region fared so well.
Nevertheless, scientists are encouraged by their findings and believe that in the future it might pave way for a new tool for studying past earthquakes.