Forests are essential to the health of the planet thanks to their ability to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere. That's how they keep the planet and the air cleaner.
For years, the world thought that older, massive forests are the only ones playing a crucial part in this process. It seems reality paints a slightly different picture. According to a new study conducted by researchers at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) other types of forests may actually be better at storing carbon.
What Is Carbon Sequestration
A tree’s ability to store carbon dioxide long-term is called carbon sequestration. As the name suggests, this term refers to the process of absorbing and storing CO2. Carbon sequestration can be a natural process, like the one in trees, or it can be human-induced in processes meant to purify the air.
These days, you may hear the term carbon sequestration a lot more often. Because of climate change caused by rising temperatures led by high amounts of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere, environmentalists are now focusing on carbon sequestration methods that could help prevent the climate from getting hotter and hotter. This is one of the main advantages of carbon sequestration that directly impacts the health of the globe.
How Can A Tree Help In Carbon Sequestration
Plants use the energy of sunlight. They can store CO2 from the air through a process known as photosynthesis. They also help the soil capture a significant amount of Co2 as well.
It was previously thought that older, more developed forests like the Amazon rainforest are best at carbon sequestration. The Amazon rainforest can store around 2 billion tons of CO2 per year according to some estimates. However, new data seems to show this is not exactly the case.
The BIFoR study analyzed carbon storage in old and regrown forests between 1981 and 2019, and their results showed that newer forests had stronger carbon sequestration capabilities:
- Old forest sequestered 950 million - 1.1 billion metric tons of CO2 per year;
- Young forests (growing less than 140 years) stored 1.17 - 1.66 billion metric tons per year.
How Are Younger Forests More Efficient At Carbon Sequestration?
Scientists don’t yet have a definite answer to why newer forests are better at absorbing carbon. There are a few popular theories that could explain this phenomenon.
One theory is that areas that have been deforested are now more exposed to sunlight, meaning they can be easily restored with fast-growing species. As the trees grow, they can take in a lot more carbon than older trees that are exposed to less sunlight and have more trees to compete with.
Another theory could be that a young, growing tree simply requires more carbon as it develops. The researchers found that age accounted for 25% of the total CO2 absorbed by the forest. It was primarily focused in the middle and high latitude forests, like the ones in the Eastern part of the US.
So it seems like the best trees for carbon sequestration are newer, growing trees that are simply hungrier and have to compete less for their sustenance.
Plant A Tree Today
If you’ve read this article and are now thinking of planting trees for carbon sequestration, you’re on the right path. Though older forests still require the world’s attention, and deforestation rates should be diminished, it seems that massive efforts to restore the world’s green spaces are not in vain.
The new trees can thrive in these affected areas and directly work towards reducing the levels of CO2 from the air, making the entire world a healthier, better place.
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