Long ago, when the vikings first arrived in Iceland the land was forested. Something between 25-40% of the country was covered by trees and humans slowly cut down the trees to an extent that was harmful to local ecosystems. Efforts to replant trees in the country have failed since they brought seeds from outside the country and a warming planet hasn’t been friendly to those trees. Now they are using native species to grow their forests and it’s working.
The anti-conservation “conservative” Ontario government recently announced they cancelled a program that helped plant 28 million trees. The goal of that program was to plant 50 million trees to reduce flooding (which parts of Ontario are currently suffering from), clean the air, and protect wildlife. Fortunately there are smarter governments outside of Ontario that realize we need trees to breath and live.
A study by ETH Zurich has revealed that if we plant 1.2 trillion trees we can essentially cancel out a decade of anthropogenic carbon emissions. That might sound like a lot of trees but we do have space for them and can easily reach that goal, as long as governments that care about people are voted in. You can act locally and plant a tree in your yard (if you have one).
There is enough room in the world’s existing parks, forests, and abandoned land to plant 1.2 trillion additional trees, which would have the CO2 storage capacity to cancel out a decade of carbon dioxide emissions, according to a new analysis by ecologist Thomas Crowther and colleagues at ETH Zurich, a Swiss university.
The research, presented at this year’s American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington, D.C., argues that planting additional trees is one of the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gases.
Giant redwood trees are beautiful to look at and are great for the environment. We need them now more than ever before. The redwoods filter air, water while also removing tons of carbon due to their sheer size. These trees are so precious that scientists are trying to revive an ancestor of the modern redwoods.
Using saplings made from the basal sprouts of these super trees to plant new groves in temperate countries around the world means the growths have a better chance than most to become giants themselves. Their ancestors grew up to 400 ft (122 m) tall and to 35 ft in diameter, after all, larger than the largest living redwood today, a giant sequoia in California’s Sequoia National Park. Already, super saplings from the project are thriving in groves in Canada, England, Wales, France, New Zealand, and Australia. None of these locales are places where coastal redwoods grow naturally, but they all have cool temperatures and sufficient fog for the redwoods, which drink moisture from the air in summer rather than relying on rain. Milarch calls this “assisted migration.”
The lush, dense, quality of rainforests instantly make one think of how beautiful and efficient they are at making fresh air (and thus suck up carbon). As a result of the obvious wonderfulness of rainforests we’ve done a lot of work to try to protect rainforests from destruction. We need to the same in our cities. In London, researchers used LIDAR technology to better understand how much carbon urban trees soak up. Trees in urban centres love to absorb that carbon! The proximity to carbon sources like automobiles make urban trees really effective at air-cleaning so much that they are comparable to rainforests.
Thank your local tree for making your air cleaner!
The UCL team used publicly available airborne lidar data collected by the UK Environment Agency, in conjunction with their ground measurements, to estimate biomass of all the 85,000 trees across Camden. These lidar measurements help to quantify the differences between urban and non-urban trees, allowing scientists to come up with a formula predicting the difference in size-to-mass ratio, and thus measuring the mass of urban trees more accurately.
The findings show that Camden has a median carbon density of around 50 tonnes of carbon per hectare (t/ha), rising to 380 t/ha in spots such as Hampstead Heath and Highgate Cemetery – that’s equivalent to values seen in temperate and tropical rainforests. Camden also has a high carbon density, compared to other cities in Europe and elsewhere. For example, Barcelona and Berlin have mean carbon densities of 7.3 and 11.2 t/ha respectively; major cities in the US have values of 7.7 t/ha and in China the equivalent figure is 21.3 t/ha.
Treepedia is a new tool from MIT that uses Google street view to evaluate what the coverage of trees are in specific areas. It lets you know what your neighbourhood is like and doesn’t just bias cities with big inaccessible parks. This means that cities (and people!) can use this tool to find where trees are most badly needed from the perspective of a pedestrian. Trees are more than just pollution-fighters, they make cities prettier and friendlier.
“Street greenery is a really important part of the urban environment,” says Xiaojiang Li, a postdoctoral fellow at MIT who helped develop Treepedia’s Green View Index, a measure of the tree coverage in a city overall and in any area within the city that a user wants to examine.
Trees provide shade for pedestrians in the summer and help to lower urban temperatures, Mr. Li says. They also help prevent water runoff during heavy rain and clean the air.
The MIT team used the Google photos instead of satellite imagery to “really measure how much greenery people might see” as they move around a city’s streets, Mr. Li says. Treepedia’s Green View Index doesn’t take city parks into account for that same reason.