Forest trees
Courtesy Columbia University

Global warming is stressing plants around the globe. Higher temperatures, longer-lasting droughts, and extreme weather events are all bad for trees and forests. But if trees and forests decline, global warming will accelerate even faster.

Trees and forests remove carbon dioxide from the air and convert it to carbon during photosynthesis. The carbon is then stored in wood and leaves through a process called “carbon sequestration”. Trapping carbon dioxide is a crucial role in the battle against climate change. Thus, scientists are trying to figure out how to maximize the ability of forests to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

It seems logical that having more trees in a forest would be better for carbon storage. However, only areas around the equator and tropical areas receive enough sunlight to support an abundance of trees. Now however, scientists have discovered that having more trees may not be the best way to achieve greater carbon storage.

New research confirms that an abundance of trees favors the recapture of CO2 – but only in cold or dry regions (where it is more difficult to maintain larger forests). In equatorial and tropical rainforests, more is not necessarily better. Instead, scientists have found that species diversity is optimal in those areas. In other words, in tropical forests and areas around the equator, having a variety of different kinds of trees is better for removing CO2 from the atmosphere than having an abundance of trees.

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By Reeko