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How much carbon dioxide each tree absorbs

How much carbon dioxide each tree absorbs

In the era in which the need for civilization to respect the balance and dynamics of the Earth has overwhelmingly emerged, a question that has been known for some time has come to the fore but which today assumes, due to its repercussions, a fundamental importance.
We are referring to the ability of plants with chlorophyll to synthesize substances essential for the life itself of all living species and crucial in the carbon cycle.
Indeed, we know that the CO2/O2 ratio of the atmosphere plays a decisive role on planetary climatic aspects.
CO2, with its physical behavior, is considered a climate-altering gas (although not alone) and therefore in the anthropocene era, that is, that period in the history of the planet in which humanity has changed, with its activities, certain balances, its production or absorption can change the fate of the very existence of life as we know it.
Photosynthesis is a very important biochemical process, vital for the survival and health of the plant itself. It is precisely through photosynthesis, in fact, that plants obtain the nourishment necessary to grow.
During the phenomenon of photosynthesis, chlorophyll is produced and released from oxygen, as a waste of the whole process, which – in turn – is an essential element for life on Earth for plants, animals and, of course, also for humans.
During the photosynthesis process, as many of us learned in our school years, plants absorb 6 carbon dioxide molecules and 6 water molecules and – by transforming them – they in turn produce 1 glucose molecule and 6 oxygen molecules.
In this way the glucose produced becomes a fundamental compound because it allows the synthesis of molecules rich in energy and the release of the energy essential to be able to implement the metabolic process of the plant.
Oxygen, on the other hand, which is released as waste during the process, is essential for the life of all living beings on Earth. The carbon dioxide present in the environment, in fact, thanks to the process of photosynthesis implemented by plants – is transformed into precious oxygen. This process – as well as being fundamental for plant life – is also essential for man and his health, because – by transforming carbon dioxide into oxygen – plants help to indirectly fight pollution, because they absorb the excess carbon present in our cities, thus containing the levels of smog present in the air.
Trees, in particular (which in any case applies to all plants with photosynthesis) therefore represent a real opportunity in terms of CO2 absorption and therefore in the fight against global warming; for this reason, reforestation can therefore be one of the most important solutions.

CO2 Absorption Capacity of Trees –
To understand this important property, as opposed to that of human activities which tend to produce CO2, some summary calculations can be made.
For example, in Italy, an average person emits 5.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. Obviously this data changes, and even considerably, depending on the lifestyle of each person (food, transport, accommodation, etc.).
Even if the carbon absorption capacity can vary (according to the species, the habitat where it grows, its age, etc.) it can be considered that a tree stores a maximum of about 30 kg of CO2 per year, or 1 ton of CO2 per year for 33 mature trees. This means that to offset the CO2 emissions of a single Italian, more than 183 trees would have to be planted each year.
Beyond that, a distinction must be made between atmospheric pollution and greenhouse gases: in fact, both are responsible for climate change but atmospheric pollutants (carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, etc.) often have negative effects on health; greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, on the other hand, do not necessarily have a direct impact on health but do however have repercussions on the thermal capacity of the entire biosphere.
Returning to the ability of trees to absorb CO2, it must also be said that the carbon storage capacity of a tree varies on the basis of various factors, among which we still mention the main ones:
– The species;
– The age;
– The dimensions;
– The climate;
– The soil.
Furthermore, since some trees grow faster and therefore absorb CO2 more rapidly, while other tree species grow slower but live longer, and therefore absorb more CO2 in the long term, it is difficult to estimate which trees absorb more CO2.
Therefore, to make a more accurate calculation, if we are, for example, in a forest, it is necessary to take into consideration its composition. Leaving aside some complex calculations, we have that the most biodiverse forests, and therefore with more species, such as mixed forests, are the ones that absorb the most CO2.
For this reason, not only the protection of forests becomes important but also the implementation of forestation projects and agro-ecological agricultural production techniques (technique based on greater biodiversity and CO2 storage capacity).
According to a Swiss study, 1,200 billion trees would need to be planted on Earth to absorb two-thirds of the CO2 produced by man since the industrial age.
It is evident that the planting of these trees should respect the natural habitats, in order not to create degradation of the same and other negative ecological dynamics, and therefore cannot be carried out without the supervision of botanists, agronomists and foresters, etc.
Furthermore, even if reforestation can contribute to the fight against global warming, it is important not only to offset CO2 emissions, but above all to reduce them.
Planet Earth is in fact a complex thermodynamic machine which, in order to function well, and therefore guarantee the well-being of all its living beings, must be kept at a given energy level, being careful not to upset the thermodynamic model with the introduction of excessive energy inputs, such as those deriving from the introduction into the system of large quantities of substances of a fossil nature (oil, gas, raw materials, etc.).
For this reason, if the forestation, forest protection and agroecology plan is not accompanied by a global program to reduce waste (as identified in Agenda 2030 and other consequential objectives) we risk trivializing this aspect as well, never finding the definitive solution.

Guido Bissanti

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