Saturday, September 19, 2009

What happens when you plant 3.25 million tropical trees?

Freshly planted field of Acacia mangium
The reason I ask this question is because I did the calculations for an oil company the other day. It takes about 2,750 hectares or 7,200 acres of land to plant that many trees. That is a lot of land, so what impact would planting that many tropical trees have on global warming and climate change? Assuming the tropical trees in question were fast growing species like Acacia mangium, Caraipa llanorum and Eucalyptus pellita, to name just a few, then there should be a significant carbon offset thanks to the ability of tropical trees to sequester CO2. Since 50% or more of the woody biomass of a tropical tree is carbon, so it seems to me that anyone who is serious about reducing atmospheric carbon needs to take action and start planting.
Freshly planted field of Eucalyptus pellita
Since the average tropical tree absorbs about 50 lbs or 22.6 kg of CO2 per year, the number would have to  be enormous. Assunming the trees take a full year after planting to start sequestering that much carbon, then 3.25 million tropical trees should sequester 162.5 million lbs or 73.45 million kilograms of CO2 every year. Since tropical trees are most effective at sequestering carbon during their first 10 to 12 years of life, that means that if the trees were cared for and maintained for 10 years after becoming CO2 effective, 3.25 million trees would sequester 1.625 billion lbs or 734.5 million kilograms of CO2 during that 10 year period. That is 734,500 metric tons or 809,648 imperial tons of carbon. Clearly, this makes a lot of sense for industries like oil and gas that need to offset their CO2 emissions.

It would cost approximately $6 million dollars (including land, equipment, materials, labour and more) to plant 3.25 million trees.If one starts to factor in the other benefits, like oxygen for all of us to breathe, the removal of a large number of pollutants other than CO2 from the atmosphere by tropical trees, expanded habitat for endangered wildlife, socio-economic benefits to communities in developing countries, and the conservation of native tree species for better bio-diversity, then the price tag becomes ridiculously low. So why don't you call up your local oil and gas company or petro-chemical industry and ask them why they are not actively funding the planting of tropical trees? Send them to


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