Pharos-Tribune

Online only

December 12, 2012

Do you deserve a lump of carbon under your Christmas tree?

(Continued)

New forests also seem to emit significant levels of carbon dioxide, rather than only absorbing and storing it. When we plant or replant a tree farm, we turn over the soil and kill off roots and ground-level plants. That vegetation was also storing carbon, and it begins to decompose. In some cases, the dying plant matter emits more carbon dioxide than the newly planted trees extract from the atmosphere.

There has also been research suggesting that old-growth forests are more active than they appear. According to a scientific letter published in the journal Nature in 2008, forests continue to add woody matter — both new branches on existing trees and new, smaller plants — for centuries, sequestering carbon from the atmosphere in the process. The net carbon budget — the amount of carbon sequestered minus the carbon emitted through decomposition of downed plant matter — is more favorable in a forest's 300th year than in its fifth year. Overall, the data seem to suggest that old-growth forests keep more carbon out of the atmosphere than high-turnover tree farms, but there is probably significant variation depending on locale and how foresters manage the stock.

This doesn't mean you should forsake a Christmas tree or turn to an artificial alternative. (Fake Christmas trees often include chemicals that are especially harmful to the environment when discarded and are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than natural trees.)

A few special considerations set Christmas tree farms apart from producers of trees grown for paper. Christmas tree farmers typically plant more trees than they harvest, giving the new crop a better chance at out-sequestering the ones they replaced.

Evergreens aren't the best arboreal carbon sequestration tools — that title goes to hardwood trees — so the difference in greenhouse gas emissions between a long-lived evergreen forest and a Christmas tree farm aren't likely to be significant. (Razing a hardwood forest to grow Christmas trees would be a bigger problem, but this is a relatively rare event.)

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Online only
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should grocery and convenience stores be allowed to sell cold beer?

Yes
No
Unsure
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.