The popular wartime US President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “a nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people”.1 If forestry is the management of large tree populations, could carbon storage in trees help stop climate change? Could this profession save us from a climate change disaster?
How can carbon storage in trees stop climate change?
Trees protect our planet from overheating and climate change by turning carbon dioxide back into oxygen. They use the CO2 by absorbing it, and through photosynthesis, they turn it into energy and oxygen. The carbon is then used to build plant matter, such as stems, leaves and tree trunks.2
A typical hardwood tree can absorb a significant amount of CO2 – 48 pounds each year. Over its average lifetime, this can amount to one ton of carbon.3
Many scientists say that the carbon storage gained by planting more trees could save us from the worst impacts of climate change. In 2019, a study found that there is enough space to plant 1.2 trillion trees around the world. If planted, these trees could absorb 100 years worth of carbon emissions. However, this would require the world to plant trees in a land area equal to the size of the US and China combined.4
How can forestry help us stop climate change?
Forestry is the management of tree populations in an area for a range of activities. This includes recreation, tourism and ecosystem protection to timber and food production. Forestry involves looking after trees for specific goals. These goals may be to protect our landscape or sustainably harvest trees for wood.5 In other words, forestry is essential to sustainably increase our tree populations and to avert climate change.
Which countries appreciate how important carbon storage in trees is?
Countries such as the UK have pledged to increase forest cover in the country. Only around 13 per cent of the UK’s land is covered in forests, significantly less than other European countries, such as France (31 per cent), Germany (33 per cent) and Italy (32 per cent). This can only be done through carefully planned forestry.6
Forestry experts have to consider how to ensure that forests and large woodland areas thrive. This is usually the case for newer woodlands rather than ancient forests. They work by examining what trees to plant, how to manage the landscape and whether it needs extra support to sustain itself over decades.7
- Barrows, F. (2021). Tree Planting Quotes. [online] Deforestationinfo.com. Available at: https://deforestationinfo.com/tree-planting-quotes/ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2021].
- BBC (2019). What is photosynthesis? [online] BBC Bitesize. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/zvrrd2p/articles/zn4sv9q.
- Usda.gov. (2017). The Power of One Tree – The Very Air We Breathe. [online] Available at: https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2015/03/17/power-one-tree-very-air-we-breathe.
- Carrington, D. (2019). Tree planting “has mind-blowing potential” to tackle climate crisis. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/04/planting-billions-trees-best-tackle-climate-crisis-scientists-canopy-emissions.
- www.sciencedirect.com. (n.d.). Forest Ecology – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/forest-ecology [Accessed 8 Feb. 2021].
- Countryfile.com. (2019). What is the future of Britain’s forests? [online] Available at: https://www.countryfile.com/wildlife/trees-plants/what-is-the-future-of-britains-forests/ [Accessed 9 Mar. 2021].
- Climate Transform. (2021). Forest Ecology and Management. [online] Available at: https://climatetransform.com/forest-ecology-and-management/ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2021].