Extreme Temperature Diary-February 13, 2018/ Which Trees Are The Best Carbon Sinks?

Tuesday February 13th… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing post will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials)😊. Here is today’s climate change related topic:  (If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Which Trees Are The Best Carbon Sinks?

I was doing some research for this topic today and was pleasantly surprised that there have been plenty of articles already written on plants, and specifically trees, that can aid in the battle to thwart climate change. This will be an open-ended post, which I will repost from tie to time adding more data and advice. Until someone convinces me otherwise, no “unnatural” or man made, inventive scheme has come along that is better than the good old-fashioned planting of trees and preserving forests to sink carbon. Yep, I’m a tree hugger, guilty as charged.😉

Today I’m just going to list some articles on this green subject and summarize each one. Speaking of going green a couple of days ago I noticed that France has decreed that all new rooftops have solar panels or plants: https://guyonclimate.com/2018/02/09/extreme-temperature-diary-february-8-2018-greener-spaces/. In the future buildings may look like they are very much a part of and in the forest instead of apart from the forest. But, what would be the best trees to plant on buildings? That would depend on where in the world the building is located.

I found this post thorough and very educational: http://learn.eartheasy.com/2014/01/10-carbon-storing-trees-and-how-to-plant-them/ Here are a few specific items quoted from the article, which is great to read in its entirety:

Which trees should I plant? 

Studies have identified several optimal tree species for carbon storage, and botanists continue to experiment with new hybrids.  Surprisingly, we should avoid trees such as the willow, which store comparably little carbon and emit more harmful volatile organic compounds.  When choosing trees to plant, consider:

–  Fast growing trees store the most carbon during their first decades, often a tree’s most productive period.

–  Long-lived trees can keep carbon stored for generations without releasing it in decomposition.

–  Large leaves and wide crowns enable maximum photosynthesis.

–  Native species will thrive in your soil and best support local wildlife.

–  Low-maintenance, disease-resistant species will do better without greenhouse-gas-producing fertilizers and equipment.

Consider these reliable and versatile star-performers.  The “best trees” vary by region, so look around local parks to see what’s hardy in your climate zone.

1.   Yellow Poplar (or Tulip Tree), the top carbon-storer in one New York City study, works hard under rough conditions.

2.  Silver Maple can trap nearly 25,000 pounds of CO2 in a 55 year period, according to the Center for Urban Forests.

3.  Oak (White Oak, Willow Oak, Laurel Oak and Scarlet Oak) has adapted to thrive in many climates, provides food and shelter to wildlife.

4.  Horse Chestnut grows well in cities; its domed top provides exceptional shade which offers passive cooling benefits.

5.  Red Mulberry provides the added benefit of delicious seasonal fruit. 

6.  London Plane is an excellent choice for urban planning, very tolerant of pollution and root-cramping, resistant to cold and disease.

7.  American Sweetgum has brilliant fall colors, is large and long-lived. In the north, consider American Linden instead.

8. Dogwood offers lovely seasonal flowers; this and other particularly dense trees like Black Walnut can store more carbon in a smaller tree.

9.  Blue Spruce, widely introduced as an ornamental, thrives in most northern regions; in the Pacific Northwest, Douglas Fir also excels.

10. Pines (White, Red, Ponderosa and Hispaniola) are the most carbon-effective conifer; find out which is right for your zone.

This article, which popped up in my search engine, was written yesterday: https://www.thoughtco.com/which-trees-offset-global-warming-1204209 

Here are a couple of important excerpts: 

All Plants Absorb Carbon Dioxide, but Trees Absorb the Most

While all living plant matter absorbs CO2 as part of photosynthesis, trees process significantly more than smaller plants due to their large size and extensive root structures.

Trees, as kings of the plant world, have much more “woody biomass” to store CO2 than smaller plants. As a result, trees are considered nature’s most efficient “carbon sinks.” It is this characteristic which makes planting trees a form of climate change mitigation.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), tree species that grow quickly and live long are ideal carbon sinks. Unfortunately, these two attributes are usually mutually exclusive. Given the choice, foresters interested in maximizing the absorption and storage of CO2 (known as “carbon sequestration”) usually favor younger trees that grow more quickly than their older cohorts. However, slower growing trees can store much more carbon over their significantly longer lives.

Plant Any Tree Appropriate for Region and Climate to Offset Global Warming

Ultimately, trees of any shape, size or genetic origin help absorb CO2. Most scientists agree that the least expensive and perhaps the easiest way for individuals to help offset the CO2 that they generate in their everyday lives is to plant a tree…any tree, as long as it is appropriate for the given region and climate.

Those who wish to help larger tree planting efforts can donate money or time to the National Arbor Day Foundation or American Forests in the U.S., or to the Tree Canada Foundation in Canada.

I found this nice green graphic depicting the carbon cycle in association with a typical U.S. forest:

If you soak up this image (pun intended😉) you will notice that “healthy soil” containing plenty of organic matter is part of the natural carbon sequestration process. Clear cutting of forests, as a good example, usually leads to erosion washing a lot of organic matter away…not a good thing in the ongoing battle to save the climate. Clear cutting is a huge problem in the tropics, such as in the Amazon, described as the planet’s lungs.

Fraser MacLeod informed me of two technical studies on how efficient two species of trees are at sinking carbon:

The first is beech forest: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2435.2000.00434.x/full

The second is of a boreal jack pine forest: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2435.2000.00434.x/full

I’ll add more information in time to this post.


 Now let’s search for some U.S. ETs.

Florida has been getting rather toasty under a building ridge of late:

I may add some reports if I see them later this evening.
The Climate Guy 


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