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Conature Project

Old Trees Are Better Carbon Savers than Young Forests and Plantations

The 50-year-old theory, still guided by forest specialists, states that only young and immature forests accumulate carbon, which is particularly useful for the wood industry and illuminates the green light for intensive deforestation and development of wood plantations. It turns out that, as the research states, that as the tree grows, the rate of carbon accumulation in it increases steadily. This is completely changing the approach to old and mature forests and their role in climate change. Trees store carbon throughout their life cycle, not just when they are growing intensively. Not only the trunks but also the bedding accumulates carbon. The researchers' main conclusion is that the larger the tree, the more kilograms of carbon it accumulates each year. Climate mitigation requires holding back clear-cutting, deforestation and replacement of young stands and plantations. Newly planted forests do not match old ones in terms of the amount of carbon they store. If we want to store more carbon in our forests, it is not enough just to increase their area. Equally important is the age structure of stands. Mature trees can be cut quickly, but it takes time to form.

Old trees in the city center of Šiauliai, Lithuania
Old trees in the city center of Šiauliai, Lithuania

In the context of climate change mitigation policies, it is more important to preserve existing old forests, especially less populated ancient woods, both in the tropical and boreal regions, than to plant new forests and plantations that will be equivalent to old forests in terms of carbon absorption after half of the century, only."

We learned at school that forests are the lungs of the planet. Trees, like other plants, use carbon dioxide, store carbon and release oxygen. However, while the major merit of forests twenty years ago was the release of oxygen, the role of forests as a carbon accumulation ecosystem is growing today, along with the importance of mitigating climate change.

A tree in the city – an oak.
A tree in the city – an oak.

Green protectors of our cities

Trees and shrubs cool the surrounding areas in several ways. Their leaves reflect light and heat and provide shade and, through the leaves of the trees, the water evaporates into the air, resulting in lower temperatures around them. Thus, these natural processes can partially reduce the negative effects of heat waves in cities. Studies of urban temperature forecasts for the next 70 years predict that urban areas with greenery covered 10 percent less, the temperature may rise by 8.2° C. On the other hand, if urban green spaces were increased by 10%, the temperature could be expected to rise by just 1 ° C.

Green areas of the city

Forests and green spaces improve air quality in both urban and rural areas. They absorb various air pollutants in the form of particles and carbon monoxide emissions from vehicles and industry. In addition, trees help combat climate change - a fully grown tree absorbs about 22 kg of carbon dioxide per year and releases oxygen into the air. It is estimated that 1.3 million trees remove from air more than 2.5 thousand tons of pollutants each year.

Forests and green spaces contribute to flood management. Trees and other green areas facilitate the penetration of rainwater into the soil. Planting trees and expanding green spaces are key tools for the development of European green infrastructure and also contribute to flood management.

The challenge for the future: more trees and forests in cities.