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Trees are vital carbon sinks

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Trees Play an Even More Important Role in Fighting Climate Change than Previously Thought

It was recently revealed that trees in the UK are locking away twice as much carbon as originally thought. A study, using lasers and 3D scanning, showed that old trees in particular were critical to fighting climate change as they act as vital ‘carbon sinks’.

Recent research, published in the Ecological Solutions and Evidence journal, used laser-scanned maps of individual trees, converting them into a model which gave a measure of each tree’s volume. This was used to calculate the amount of carbon captured in each tree’s trunk and branches.

Before these modern techniques were available, it was impossible to weigh a tree to calculate its carbon sink value without cutting it down.

The results showed that a patch of UK forest weighs around twice as much as previous calculations suggested and, based on the knowledge that around half the mass will be carbon and the other half water, it is clear to see that trees are playing an even more important role in fighting climate change than originally thought.

What are carbon sinks and why are they important?

A carbon sink is anything that absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases. Examples of carbon sinks include plants, oceans and soil.

Carbon sinks act like sponges, soaking up carbon compounds such as the carbon dioxide produced as a by-product of burning fossil fuels, and storing them for an indefinite period. They are therefore a crucial resource in the fight against climate change.

Retaining and caring for our trees is therefore vital. Without them, we are limiting our valuable natural carbon sinks and therefore allowing excess carbon to remain in the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas. The reason it is so-called is because it causes an effect like the glass in a greenhouse, trapping heat and warming up the inside. This effect is important, because without the CO2 that naturally exists in the atmosphere, the Earth would probably be too cold to support human life.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide


However, the atmosphere is very sensitive to changing levels of carbon dioxide and, even though it makes up less than 0.1% of the gases in the air, it can have a significant effect on the amount of heat the surface of the planet retains.

As the planet warms up, a whole series of events ensues. More frequent and intense drought, storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans are all symptoms of global warming, and all of them are known to harm animals, destroy habitats, and wreak havoc on people’s livelihoods and communities. As climate change gets worse, dangerous weather events are becoming more frequent or severe.

We’ve known for a long time that trees are vital when it comes to absorbing and storing carbon and keeping atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide at a more manageable level. But the recent research findings indicate that they are doing an even more important job than originally thought. Large, mature trees are particularly valuable, so it’s important we do all we can to take care of them.

Taking care of trees

The importance of professionally caring for your trees cannot be over-emphasised. Regular pruning, checking for disease and pest infestation and dead wooding are all vital if your tree is going to enjoy the best of health, and act as that all-important carbon sink.

Need professional assistance in caring for your trees? Whether you’ve recently planted a tree, or you have a mature specimen in your garden that could do with some care and attention, our helpful experts here at TH Trees Ltd are ready to help. For personalised assistance, you are welcome to get in touch.

Related guides

How to care for newly planted trees

Choosing the best trees for your needs

The best trees for small gardens

A guide to fast growing trees

The best trees to attract birds

The best trees to attract pollinators

How to Care for Your Trees in Winter

How to Check Your Trees After a Storm and Why it’s Essential

Always provide an excellent service

This is the third time TH Trees have provided tree services to us and we are always really pleased with their friendly, professional service and advice. This time we had a conifer and bush removed and another tree cut right back. Always very tidy, would wholeheartedly recommend.

Thank you Sue for recommending us and for your kind review. It is always a pleasure to help you, and we look forward to being of service again in the future whenever you need us.

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