1023165484

1023165484

United Kingdom, Lake District, lone tree in the countryside

Photo by: Westend61

Westend61

Forest Projects Will Help Rebalance Earth’s Climate

By: Robin Fearon

Forests might be the best tool humanity has to tackle climate change. Trees give cooling shade, absorb and store carbon dioxide (CO2), recycle water, and provide habitat for other plants and animals. Huge international projects like the Trillion Trees initiative believe planting forests will ultimately help to rebalance Earth’s climate.

April 29, 2022

Plants naturally absorb CO2 and emit oxygen as part of photosynthesis, but trees can process a lot more because of the size of their trunks, green leafy canopy, and root structures. This filtering and storage capacity is part of the United Nations ‘Great Green Wall’ initiative to plant an 8,000 km (5,000 mile) long tree belt across the African continent.

More recent projects like Trillion Trees, the World Economic Forum’s ‘1T’, and the UN’s follow-up ‘Great Green Wall for Cities’ highlight tree planting and forest regeneration as the most effective nature-based solution for runaway CO2 emissions.

200500611-001

200500611-001

Perthshire, Scotland

Photo by: Travelpix Ltd

Travelpix Ltd

1T uses research data showing that planting nearly one billion hectares (2.2 billion acres) of trees in the right places could remove 25 percent of the CO2 from Earth’s atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the Great Green Wall for Cities project would create urban green areas linked to wider forest restoration across both Africa and Asia. Once complete the wall will capture an estimated 0.5-5 billion metric tons of CO2 every year. And, if well managed, its urban forests could also reduce air temperature, lower flood risk, and improve air quality by filtering out pollutants.

City trees are actually sucking more CO2 out of the atmosphere than was thought. Climate scientists know that forests soak up more than they release – absorbing 30 percent of carbon emissions from fossil fuels. Now Boston University studies show that outlying forest edges and urban trees grow almost twice as quickly, and store carbon faster, than trees deep inside the forest.

Projects influenced by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki are now creating tiny community forests across the planet, using native trees to provide shade, support plants, and animals, and store carbon in city centers. Miyawaki’s micro-forests are much denser than conventional plantations. They store 30 times more CO2 than monoculture (single species) forests and offer 30 times better noise and dust reduction, say his followers.

1297052510

1297052510

Carpet of Bluebells in early morning light

Photo by: Jake Stephen

Jake Stephen

Dave Nowak is a researcher at the US Forest Service who has studied using trees in urban settings to sequester carbon for more than 30 years. Trees not only cool their surroundings and filter out CO2, they also recycle tiny particulate matter (PM) pollutants. Conifer trees, such as yew, pine, or cypress trees reduce PM best because they are evergreen, says Nowak.

But beyond trees that grow quickly, figuring out which exact species work best to improve air quality depends on many factors including soil, local climate, and site conditions. Generally, tree species that live long and require little maintenance are top of the list, says Nowak.

Still, identifying the right species to plant requires local expertise, says Nowak. Urban planners can start by using the US Forest Service ‘iTree Tools’ to choose the best trees for each locality. Another tool, American Forests’ ‘Tree Equity Score Analyzer’, helps planners to target urban forests in disadvantaged areas.

Next Up

The World is Waking Up to the Importance of Mangroves

Mangroves are threatened by sea level rise, lack of sediment, and human activity. So why should we care?

Digging Sea Otters Stimulate Sexual Reproduction in Seagrass

Hungry sea otters improve the genetic diversity of eelgrass when digging for clams among aquatic vegetation, found scientists.

Thousands of Tree Species Remain Undiscovered, say Scientists

There are around 9,200 tree species still to be discovered, most of them in the tropics, an incredible new study has revealed.

Whale and Krill Populations are the Secret to Healthier Oceans

Oceans rely on their largest species, especially whales, to recycle and regenerate ecosystems. Studies at Stanford University identify the whale as an animal that recharges its own food sources and recycles carbon. Now researchers think they have found a way to seed plankton and krill numbers that will boost whale populations and restore fading sea life.

Environmental Initiatives Offer Hope for Critically Endangered Spider Monkeys

How one organization’s community-centric approach to conservation created a new generation of environmental activists.

How a Change in Fishing Practices Saved Coral Reefs

Learn how a change in fishing practices unintentionally preserved the coral reefs of the Lakshadweep archipelago off the coast of India

What Fat Bears and Astronauts Have in Common

The mysteries around hibernating bears have intrigued curious children and researchers alike for ages. What is hibernation, what causes it and aren’t bears too big to truly hibernate? And probably most interestingly - could humans do this someday?

Fishermen and Scientist Develop Rope-less Gear to Save Whales

Fishermen are testing alternative rope-less gear in order to help an effort to save the critically endangered whale species.

Believed-Extinct Rio Apaporis Caiman Rediscovered

The believed-extinct Rio Apaporis caiman (Caiman crocodilus apaporiensis) has been captured by Forrest Galante, wildlife biologist and host of Animal Planet’s EXTINCT OR ALIVE, and team, making history once again.

5 Things You Didn't Know Climate Change Could Do

Climate change has some complex effects that you may not even realize exist. Read on to learn more.