Diffuse sunlight and cosmic rays: Missing pieces of the forest growth change attribution puzzle?

Jean-Daniel Bontemps*, Henrik Svensmark

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Forest growth changes have been a matter of intense research efforts since the 1980s. Owing to the variety of their environmental causes – mainly atmospheric CO2 increase, atmospheric N deposition, changes in temperature and water availability, and their interactions – their interpretation has remained challenging. Recent isolated researches suggest further effects of neglected environmental factors, namely changes in the diffuse fraction of light, more efficient to photosynthesis, and galactic cosmic rays (GCR), both emphasized in this Discussion paper. With growing awareness of GCR influence on global cloudiness (the cosmoclimatologic theory by H. Svensmark), GCR may thus cause trends in diffuse-light, and distinguishing between their direct/indirect influences on forest growth remains uncertain. This link between cosmic rays and diffuse sunlight also forms an alternative explanation to the geological evidence of a negative correlation between GCR and atmospheric CO2 concentration over the past 500 Myr. After a careful scrutiny of this literature and of key contributions in the field, we draw research options to progress further in this attribution. These include i) observational strategies intending to build on differences in the spatio-temporal dynamics of environmental growth factors, ranging from quasi-experiments to meta-analyses, ii) simulation strategies intending to quantify environmental factor's effects based on process-based ecosystem modelling, in a context where progresses for accounting for diffuse-light fraction are ongoing. Also, the hunt for tree-ring based proxies of GCR may offer the perspective of testing the GCR hypothesis on fully coupled forest growth samples.

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    Original languageEnglish
    Article number150469
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Number of pages6
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


    • Forest growth
    • Growth trends
    • Environment
    • Attribution
    • Climatic change
    • Diffuse light
    • Clouds
    • Cosmic rays


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