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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.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Daisy Brickhill
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By Sam Nickerson
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Tyson Foods Recalls Nearly 70,000 Pounds of Chicken Strips After Customers Find ‘Fragments of Metal’
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The affected products were fully-cooked "Buffalo Style" and "Crispy" chicken strips with a "use by" date of Nov. 30, 2019 and an establishment number of "P-7221" on the back of the package.
"FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers' freezers," the recall notice said. "Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase."
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The study, published Wednesday in BMJ, found that pregnant women who lived within 2,000 meters (approximately 1.2 miles) of a highly-sprayed agricultural area in California had children who were 10 to 16 percent more likely to develop autism and 30 percent more likely to develop severe autism that impacted their intellectual ability. If the children were exposed to pesticides during their first year of life, the risk they would develop autism went up to 50 percent.
ExxonMobil could be the second company after Monsanto to lose lobbying access to members of European Parliament after it failed to turn up to a hearing Thursday into whether or not the oil giant knowingly spread false information about climate change.
The call to ban the company was submitted by Green Member of European Parliament (MEP) Molly Scott Cato and should be decided in a vote in late April, The Guardian reported.
Bernie Sanders has become the first contender in the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary field to pledge to offset all of the greenhouse gas emissions released by campaign travel, The Huffington Post reported Thursday.