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Scientists Say Forests Are a Possible Carbon Storage Solution

Maybe one of the best things we can do it offset our CO2 is also one of the simplest: stop cutting down trees. In a recent issue of Bioscience, Ohio State University Professor Peter Curtis wrote that carbon storage in Midwestern forests could offset greenhouse gas emissions from two-thirds of the nearby population. Maintaining the forests could even increase storage capacity in the future.

Curtis and his team based their calculations on measurements taken between 1999 and 2005. The measurements, which factored in climate, history, and tree type, showed that a forested region in northern Michigan could potentially store over 350,000 tons of carbon each year. That adds up to about 62 percent of the region’s emissions.

Interestingly, the majority of the CO2 stored in the researchers’ forested region is located in wood mass and soil organic matter. The remaining CO2 is taken in by stem wood, leaves, and debris.

Curtis’ team also noticed that younger trees hold more carbon than older ones, but aging trees have younger trees underneath them waiting to rejuvenate the forest. They hope that their discovery will help persuade policymakers to leave both old and young forests be.

I doubt that we’ll stop cutting down forests anytime soon, as humans are regrettably shortsighted. But storing CO2 in forests is a great natural option to potentially dangerous alternatives like carbon capture and storage.

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was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.


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