You have probably heard that Trees can be our solution for Climate Change. And yes, they are pretty amazing things! In fact, they are still a lot more effective than any man-made machine we have come up with so far. Trees help regulate the local climate, produce oxygen, improve soil quality, attract wild life, and absorb CO2! In this article we are focus on their Carbon Capture capabilities, and how much CO2 they actually absorb.
Carbon absorption per tree
When trees grow, they convert CO2 to carbohydrates (sugar). They do this by photosynthesis, and this proces forms building blocks of the tree. The oxygen that is produced is actually a side effect of this carbon sequestering. While the tree grows it keeps converting CO2 in order to grow tall and strong. A young tree is still small and converts less, but as the tree grows bigger it also absorbs more Co2.
A young tree absorbs about 5900 gram CO2 per year, while a 10 year old tree absorbs almost 22.000 gram per year.
By taking these numbers we can calculate the average CO2 that is absorbed by a tree during his lifetime.
To make this more tangible we convert the absorption per tree, to the CO2 capture per acre.
When you run the number, it turns out that one acre of forest absorbs about 2.5 tons of CO2 per year.
An economy-class round trip flight from London to New York causes about 1.8 tons of CO2. This would mean you would need to maintain 0.72 acre for one year in order to absorb the carbon that was produced by that flight. If you look at the average Carbon Footprint of Europeans it is about 12 ton per year. If every European would want to offset their Carbon Footprint, it would need to maintain 4.8 acres of land, every year (that is a field of 200 x 200 meters). Planting a 100 million trees would result in a total amount of 18 million (!) tons of Carbon being captured every single year.
A baby tree absorbs 5.9kg CO2 per year, while a 10 year old tree absorbs 22kg CO2 per year.
If every American family would plant just one tree, it could lead to a reduction of 453.592 ton of CO2 every year; which is about 5% of the total human CO2 production. This means that if every American family would plant 20 trees, we might actually play even.
How many trees do we need?
Even though it is the most effective solution we know, we still need A LOT of trees. It is estimated that we would need 321 millions acres of trees in order to combat Climate Change. This would increase the soil quality, improve water quality and safety, and remove enough CO2 to gives us a chance to not overheat this planet. The sustainable grown wood can be used as a building material to diminish the need of steel and concrete.
Trees do more!
But trees do even more than absorbing CO2. They actually help regulate the climate in their surroundings. On hot days they help to cool down the temperature. By planing trees in smart places, we can reduce the amount of cooling in buildings up to 30%! This means less electricity is needed, while it’s just as comfortable inside. Trees improve the air temperature around them, and makes walking and biking much more appealing. Add the cleaner air, and it is another argument to plant as many trees possible.
Not every tree is the same
Every tree is native to a certain region, and has certain properties that make it better or worse suites for CO2 absorption. In general trees that grow strong, tall, old and relatively fast take up the most CO2. The best tree in the world is therefore the Redwood, found in abundance in California. These trees grow up to 100 meter tall, 5 meter in diameter at the base and up to 800 years old! Imagine how much CO2 one of these giants absorbs during his lifetime. It is extra painful to know that many Californian cities were build on the ‘cheap wood’ that was provided by these beautiful trees, and they have decreased tremendously. Luckily there are many programs in place to protect the current trees and start growing more of them again. Redwoods really are majestic trees.
Even though Redwood trees absorb the most amount of CO2 per tree; the dense rain forest can actually absorb more CO2 per acre. A rain forest consists of hundreds of different plants, big and small. In general the best trees to plant are the trees that are native to that region. They will grow strongest, with the least risk of disease of having other side effects we did not see coming. Native trees will help restore the balance, and attract all sorts of wildlife that was forced out before.
Source 2: Sempervirens