CO2 sequestration and Trees

Selena Otovalos sensualina at
Mon Feb 17 19:06:27 EST 1997

Al Stangenberger wrote:
> Paolo Mori (sherwood at wrote:
> : Dear newsgroup readers
> : I am trying to find updated information about the role of trees (and in
> : particular: fast-growing tree plantations) in reducing atmospheric CO2
> : concentration.
> : I really believe that fast growing species can sequester much more CO2 then
> : other species; experimental finding demostrates that the Net Primary
> : Production of a tree plantation is growing when the trees are young until the
> : respiration becom too high; can you please give me your opinion about this?
> Probably the best way to use vegetation to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentration
> is to burn it as an energy source and thereby reduce the use of fossil fuels.
> It is true that vegetation does sequester carbon in the short term, but keeping
> that newly-sequestered carbon in storage for geologic time periods is no easy
> task.  It's lots easier to use the vegetation for energy and leave the fossil
> fuels in the ground.
> --
> Al Stangenberger                      forags at
> Dept. of Env. Sci., Policy, & Mgt.    145 Mulford Hall # 3114
> Univ. of California at Berkeley       Berkeley, CA  94720-3114
> (510) 642-4424  FAX: (510) 643-5438

Well, Al it is true that burning of fossil fuels is rapidly decreasing a 
pool of carbon which receives relatively small inputs every year, but 
from an economic standpoint it is NOT "lots easier to use the vegetation 
for energy" in a modern industrial society.  True, half of the world 
still depends upon burning of wood and charcoal for energy needs, but I 
don't think anyone is suggesting that we try to run modern power plants 
on wood alone.  The land area requirements are certainly vast, and owning 
or leasing this amount of land is not something easily accomplished.  
Even if it were, large tracts of relatively "natural areas" would need to 
be converted to high-productivity plantation management, i.e., 
monocultured, short-rotation tree "crops" would have to be used.  This 
would eliminate vast areas of wildlife habitat, recreational parks, and 
nature preserves.  I agree that fossil fuels are not inexhaustible, but 
we must be careful about suggesting a transition to using carbon-based 
fuels before they become fossilized.  It's like suggesting that we eat 
raw meat because we can't wait for it to be cooked.  The problem may lie 
in our appetites, not the foods we eat.

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