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.
Fossil Fuels are having a hard time in Turkey. @350turkiye https://t.co/uxxz5tabvu— 350 dot org (@350 dot org)1551283190.0
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.
- WATCH: Puerto Rico Planting 750,000 Trees to Defend Land From ... ›
- 1.5 Million Volunteers Plant 66 Million Trees in 12 Hours, Breaking ... ›
- Why Higher Carbon Dioxide Levels Aren’t Good News for Plants - EcoWatch ›
- Why Higher Carbon Dioxide Levels Aren’t Good News for Plants ›
- 8 Ways to Sequester Carbon to Avoid Climate Catastrophe - EcoWatch ›
To save the planet, we must save the Amazon rainforest. To save the rainforest, we must save its indigenous peoples. And to do that, we must demarcate their land.
A new EarthxTV film special calls for the protection of the Amazon rainforest and the indigenous people that call it home. EarthxTV.org
- Meet the 'Women Warriors' Protecting the Amazon Forest - EcoWatch ›
- Indigenous Tribes Are Using Drones to Protect the Amazon ... ›
- Amazon Rainforest Will Collapse by 2064, New Study Predicts ... ›
- Deforestation in Amazon Skyrockets to 12-Year High Under Bolsonaro ›
- Amazon Rainforest on the Brink of Turning Into a Net Carbon Emitter ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Anke Rasper
"Today's interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
The report, released Friday, looks at the national climate efforts of 75 states that have already submitted their updated "nationally determined contributions," or NDCs. The countries included in the report are responsible for about 30% of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions.
- World Leaders Fall Short of Meeting Paris Agreement Goal - EcoWatch ›
- UN Climate Change Conference COP26 Delayed to November ... ›
- 5 Years After Paris: How Countries' Climate Policies Match up to ... ›
- Biden Win Puts World 'Within Striking Distance' of 1.5 C Paris Goal ... ›
- Biden Reaffirms Commitment to Rejoining Paris Agreement ... ›
India's New Delhi has been called the "world air pollution capital" for its high concentrations of particulate matter that make it harder for its residents to breathe and see. But one thing has puzzled scientists, according to The Guardian. Why does New Delhi see more blinding smogs than other polluted Asian cities, such as Beijing?
- This Indian Startup Turns Polluted Air Into Climate-Friendly Tiles ... ›
- How to Win the Fight Against Plastic - EcoWatch ›
In a historic move, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted Thursday to ban hydraulic fracking in the region. The ban was supported by all four basin states — New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York — putting a permanent end to hydraulic fracking for natural gas along the 13,539-square-mile basin, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
- Appalachian Fracking Boom Was a Jobs Bust, Finds New Report ... ›
- Long-Awaited EPA Study Says Fracking Pollutes Drinking Water ... ›
- Pennsylvania Fracking Water Contamination Much Higher Than ... ›
Colombia is one of the world's largest producers of coffee, and yet also one of the most economically disadvantaged. According to research by the national statistic center DANE, 35% of the population in Columbia lives in monetary poverty, compared to an estimated 11% in the U.S., according to census data. This has led to a housing insecurity issue throughout the country, one which construction company Woodpecker is working hard to solve.
- Kenyan Engineer Recycles Plastic Into Bricks Stronger Than ... ›
- Could IKEA's New Tiny House Help Fight the Climate Crisis ... ›