Dense forests act as carbon sinks

Forests may be compared with cities as both can grow through expanding and becoming denser. A recent study shows that becoming denser has a more extensive impact on forests' ability to bind carbon dioxide than has previously been assumed.

Forests may be compared with cities as both can grow through expanding and becoming denser. A recent study shows that becoming denser has a more extensive impact on forests' ability to bind carbon dioxide than has previously been assumed.

According to the study, published in the PLoS ONE science journal, forests in many countries bind an increasing amount of carbon dioxide as they become denser. Statistics indicate that a density increase substantially boosted carbon dioxide recovery in Europe and North America, even though the forest square area increased very little.

The study, conducted at the University of Helsinki and the Rockefeller University, may have an impact on how commercial forests are managed.

– Forests that become denser bind carbon dioxide effectively. Carbon recovery can be expanded by protecting forest areas and allowing commercial forests to grow dense, says head of the research team Aapo Rautiainen from the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Helsinki.

A major change in the forests the in United States and Europe

The first stage of the study was implemented in the United States. Statistics indicated that the forest land area only had increased by 1% after 1953, but the growing stock increased by as much as 51% during the same period.

The density of European forests also increased substantially during the period under review. A shared characteristic of both the investigated areas is that the growing stock that became denser resulted in a substantially more extensive increase in the forests' carbon storage than the square area change.

While carrying out their work, the researchers obtained two interesting pictures illustrating the change in the growing stock density. In an old picture taken by I.K. Inha by Lake Pielavesi, the trees on the spit of land look weak, whereas a new picture taken by K.A. Ennola in the same location shows the trees in full bloom.

The research article in the PLoS ONE science journal »»

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Text: Kirsikka Mattila
Photo: I. K. Inha & K.A. Ennola
9.6.2011
Translation: AAC Global
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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