Friday, October 22, 2010

Roots with a Purpose

I have been researching a lot lately as I have been starting to prepare funding proposals at work.  I have been digging up some cool facts on trees and the role they play in nature.  I find it interesting that we seldom notice trees until fall when they provide us with a colorful canvas.  Trees are so much more than a part of the landscape, they are the fabric that holds the balance of earth in the air.  For me I often utilize trees to improve riparian areas which in turn improves watershed health.  I see daily how valuable they are to water quality and the relation they have with aquatic ecosystems. 
I have, through my recent research, just discovered the role they play in enhancing our air quality.  Trees provide us with oxygen while helping maintain the natural balance of other gases in the atmosphere.  Some of these gases are greenhouse gases which have tilted the balance due to the misuse of earth's natural resources by humans.  With carbon credits in the process of becoming a commodity, the old saying "Money doesn't grow on trees" may no longer be entirely correct.  Personally, I think this is a pretty cool trend. 

On average a healthy, mature, tree will absorb 27.8kgs of carbon per year while emitting enough oxygen for 2 humans to consume for that same year.  On the market, one ton or 1000kgs of carbon is considered a carbon credit.  To put it another way, one acre of woodland will absorb approximately the amount of carbon an average car emits in a year (provided you average about 40,000km/yr.) 

With these numbers in mind I set out to find out how many trees the average human should plant in their lifetime to buffer the carbon they emit in that same life.  The best answer I could find was that a total of 300 trees (http://www.coloradotrees.org/benefits.htm#2) can balance the pollution an individual creates in a lifetime.  This goes beyond carbon sequestering, but it does not take into consideration the natural processes that Mother Nature intended the same trees to balance out.

Regardless of how you feel about environmental conservation or global warming, trees are a marvelous work of nature.  How many trees have you planted?
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