The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Plant More Trees—Young Forests Use Carbon Most Effectively
By Tim Radford
For forests, it really does help to be young. British scientists who have identified the vital factor that shows what makes a forest a good carbon sink say young forests use carbon best and absorb it most efficiently.
A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences seems on the face of it to settle an old puzzle with an unsurprising answer. New and young forests make the most efficient and effective carbon sinks.
Humans burn fossil fuels and emit vast quantities of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The felling, burning and clearing of natural forest releases ever more carbon.
But green plants absorb CO2 to make tissue and turn the gas into root and branch, leaf and bark, trunk and fruit. So scientists, led by Tom Pugh of the University of Birmingham in England, addressed the question: what kind of forest is best as a carbon sink?
They gathered data about forest age, devised computer models and looked at the estimates of carbon intake between 2001 and 2010 in old, long-established areas of forest. Then they looked at the data from younger stands of timber that had colonized areas once logged, or damaged by forest fire, or farmed and then abandoned.
They identified an age effect in stands of timber less than 140 years old: big enough to account for 25 percent of forest carbon uptake from the atmosphere.
And although the great tropical rainforests are regarded as the "lungs" of the planet, and invaluable resources and homes for biodiversity, in fact the most efficient carbon dioxide consumers were forests in the middle and high latitudes: these included areas of land once farmed in the US eastern states, and then left to become part of the US National Forest, and farmland abandoned during the worldwide economic depression of the 1930s.
The finding seems reasonable, if only because the carbon appetite that turns a sapling into a full-grown tree would seem to be more demanding than that of mature or very old trees. But nothing about the notorious "carbon budget problem" is simple.
It is an axiom of global response to climate change that forests should be protected and restored. But the nature and the mechanisms of forest carbon uptake can be difficult to establish.
In theory forests may absorb around a third of all carbon emissions, but the way trees could respond to the extra carbon dioxide available is still not certain.
As carbon dioxide ratios in the atmosphere increase, the planet warms and climates change: it could be possible for some forests, some of the time, to actually release more carbon than they absorb.
And while it might seem obvious that young trees would be greedier than old ones, precise measurement of the forest giants doesn't necessarily tell the same story. Although the importance of forests is not in question, researchers keep making the point that forests are not enough.
Drastic Cuts Needed
Humans must still find ways to drastically cut fossil fuel use, and greenhouse gas emissions. But as of 2019, there is no sign that this is happening.
But the latest research confirms the value of some investments. It suggests that the vast reforestation programmes launched in China, and the huge boreal forests of Canada, Russia and Europe, are playing an important role in climate management.
"It's important to get a clear sense of where and why this carbon uptake is happening, because it helps us make targeted and informed decisions about forest management," Dr Pugh said.
"The amount of CO2 that can be taken up by forests is a finite amount; ultimately reforestation programmes will only be effective if we simultaneously work to reduce our emissions."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
- Greenwashing: corporate tree planting generates goodwill but may ... ›
- Top 22 Benefits of Trees | TreePeople ›
- Plant more trees to combat climate change: scientists | Reuters ›
- Why We Should Plant More Trees | Small Footprint Family ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Elliott Negin
On July 8, President Trump hosted a White House event to unabashedly tout his truly abysmal environmental record. The following day, coincidentally, marked the one-year anniversary of Andrew Wheeler at the helm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), first as acting administrator and then as administrator after the Senate confirmed him in late February.
By Tara Lohan
If you're a lover of wilderness, wildlife, the American West and the public lands on which they all depend, then journalist Christopher Ketcham's new book is required — if depressing — reading.
World hunger is on the rise for the third consecutive year after decades of decline, a new United Nations (UN) report says. The climate crisis ranks alongside conflict as the top cause of food shortages that force more than 821 million people worldwide to experience chronic hunger. That number includes more than 150 million children whose growth is stunted due to a lack of food.
By Adrienne L. Hollis
Because extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather hazards we currently face, Union of Concerned Scientist's Killer Heat Report for the U.S. is the most important document I have read. It is a veritable wake up call for all of us. It is timely, eye-opening, transparent and factual and it deals with the stark reality of our future if we do not make changes quickly (think yesterday). It is important to ensure that we all understand it. Here are 10 terms that really help drive home the messages in the heat report and help us understand the ramifications of inaction.
Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Senate Republican who has been a close ally of Donald Trump, did not mince words last week on the climate crisis and what he thinks the president needs to do about it.
By Marlene Cimons
Kyle Rosenblad was hiking a steep mountain on the island of Maui in the summer of 2015 when he noticed a ruggedly beautiful tree species scattered around the landscape. Curious, and wondering what they were, he took some photographs and showed them to a friend. They were Bermuda cedars, a species native to the island of Bermuda, first planted on Maui in the early 1900s.
By Grace Francese
You may know that many conventional oat cereals contain troubling amounts of the carcinogenic pesticide glyphosate. But another toxic pesticide may be contaminating your kids' breakfast. A new study by the Organic Center shows that almost 60 percent of the non-organic milk sampled contains residues of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide scientists say is unsafe at any concentration.