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
Join the discussion 23 Comments
How are you today? I hope this message finds you in good health and spirit.
We are a team of professionals creating rewards programs for supermarkets worldwide. We are currently setting up a program where customers save credits that can be converted in tree planting (instead of the travel cards, gift cards, football/baseball cards, tupperware, etc. that supermarkets offer to attract and bind customers).
We are looking to plant 500.000.000 trees over the next decade. Would you be able to upscale and if so, could you give us a price for 10.000 trees, 100.000 trees and 1.000.000 trees?
Any other information, e.g. actual co2 compensation in gram per tree (per life year) and/or promotion material about your organisation and your local partners (e.g. as regards biodiversity, soil regeneration, health, job creation etc.) is also greatly appreciated.
We’re excited to join your goal of greening up the world and we look forward to your reply at your earliest convenience.
what a great initiative! Unfortunately we not directly involved with Tree Planting, but there are many great organisations around the world. Did you have a look at https://treesforall.nl/ in the Netherlands?
Hope you’re able to get up to your goals, we need initiatives like yours. Keep doing the great work.
I see a year has passed by since you reached out to Carbon Pirates. In case, you are still looking for CO2 compensation via tree planting I’d be happy to connect and discuss. I am residing in Mufindi, Tanzania where we are developing a project with enthusiastic communities with land in hard to access areas to plant trees and maintain forests in combination with working on good practices like sustainable bee keeping and food forests. In July/August we will be in the Netherlands.
I think you might need to check your maths. Other sources estimate the every American would need to plant over 900 trees – thats more than 3,000 trees per family; 15 times your estimate.
Hi Gwyn, thank you for your comments. Could you link some of these sources so we can have a look at it? There are a wild range of numbers out there and it would be good to get as many reliable sources as we can.
Hello 🙂 nice article, and sorry for the late reply.
According to Bill gate’s “how to avoid a climate disaster”, we produce 51 billion eq. tons of CO2/year (with if I am correct 2/3 from actual CO2)
Hi Guys, Nive website, and I like the name. I have an initative in the UK I am trying to get off the ground, if you would like to colab, or link swap then please get in touch.
thanks for the update. What is the project you are working in the UK?
Would love to hear more.
Brilliant public info I have one acre of broad leaf wood, you need to go serious public ie TV.
One acre is wonderful, make sure to protect it and expand if you can 🙂
We are very open to feedback/suggestions. Please reach out to us so we can look into this and make this as accurate as possible.
Do you have any calculations on how much carbon is sequestered by 1 kg of diatoms
Sorry Anil, no idea..
May I ask for the source and the calculation method of how much CO2 a plant does absorb within an year?
Is there any source telling these values for different bamboo species as well?
please see the sources below the article. However, we are trying to gather more sources and provide more accurate calculate.
It would be interesting comparing different (bamboo) species.
I found your website interesting as I am working in this field on the issue of carbon sequestration. i would be interested to see how you calculated your figures and then compare them with ours. Your figures of 321,000,000 acres = 130,000,000 hectares. The EU/UK average is around 1800 trees per hectare. your figures of 22 kg per year per tree sequestered is close to my 21kg (not statistically significant) But at 2500 kg per acre = 6,200 kg per hectare is at the bottom end of our predictions. I’m not saying anyone is wrong but we do have to get it right – it takes 10 years for trees to get to that sort of level so humanity does not have the luxury of giving it a try and making adjustments 10 years down the line. The other factor we need to face is the resistance of corporations who are addicted to greed and then of course we have to move politicians.
The estimation seems good.But is it enough to take an average while measuring tree carbon at two stage(at young and after 10 years?
Your maths is very wrong, each US family planting 20 trees, although a start, would not do anywhere enough to reduce human’s Carbon footprint
If every UK citizen has a carbon footprint of around 12 tonne CO2 a year, we know American citizens have a larger footprint which is actually around 20 tonne a year, so an American family of two adults and two children will have a footprint of 80 tonne per year.
A tree absorbs 22kg CO2 when it is 10 years old (it may absorb 1 tonne in its whole lifetime). If a family planted just one tree a year it is just a drop in the ocean compared to their carbon footprint, 20 trees does not get that close either, they would have to have 80,000 / 22 ie 3,636 10 year old trees to absorb their annual CO2 footprint.
Hi, Do you have any idea on how much CO2 do Ficus carica trees (Fig tree) absorbe?, Could those trees help in CO2 capturing or is like other type of horticultural trees that need too much water to produce a kilo of fruit thus they do affect more than create a real solution
How much does a 170 year old tree absorb? Is it relative to the weight/size of the tree? or to its age? Some species grow much faster than others, so 10 years is quite arbitrary.
hello eucalyptus will grow 15 tonnes a acre and wood is 50 % carbon so give at least 7 tonnes of carbon and that is not counting the the roots and that is after a year or two
It seems to me that key thing here is not who is right/wrong or how much CO2 per hectare or per tree. The message, whichever set of assumptions we trust, is simple and clear: we need to plant as many trees as we can, as quickly as we can.
Later, (if we do enough) we can relax and double check the math.