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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.

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More than 800,000 people turned out Monday in India to plant trees in hopes of breaking a world record.

Uttar Pradesh officials distributed 50 million tree saplings across the state to help India increase its forest cover and to break the Guinness World record for the number of trees planted in 24 hours—which was set by Pakistan in 2013 with 847,275 trees—the AP reported. Students, lawmakers, government officials and others headed out to plant trees at designated spots along roads, rail tracks and in forested lands.

Uttar Pradesh's Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, told the AP that this record-breaking attempt would help spread awareness and enthusiasm about afforestation and conservation.

"The world has realized that serious efforts are needed to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the effects of global climate change. Uttar Pradesh has made a beginning in this regard," he said.

The Indian government is encouraging all states to start tree-planting drives like the one in Uttar Pradesh. The government has designated more than $6.2 billion for this purpose alone. India pledged to push its forest cover to 235 million acres by 2030.

Sites where the saplings have been planted with be monitored through aerial photographs, Sanjeev Saran, senior forest official, told the AP. Normally, only 60 percent of saplings survive so it is important for the government to check how many are thriving or dying.

Auditors from Guinness World Records, working "incognito" according to Saran, are checking on the numbers of saplings planted.

"They are out in the field and are supervising the plantation drive," he said. "We do not know who they are or where they are at this point in time."

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