First you need to know that live trees use the process of photosynthesis and absorb Carbon Dioxide from the air. They then release oxygen that we breathe and retain the carbon to store in the wood of the tree. So we need more trees to take CO2 out of the air and retain it.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is released when materials that have stored CO2, in a solid form like wood, coal, and oil are burned. The more CO2 that is in the air the more heat is held in the Earth’s atmosphere. The CO2 acts like a blanket.
A term we need to start hearing more is ‘proforestation.’ This means protecting and preserving the old growth forests, which are holding CO2. Old growth forests sequester more CO2 in the last 50 years of their lives than they do in their first 50 years. So it is not an even match to cut an old tree and to plant a new tree.
The Tongass National Forest in Alaska has 16 million acres of mature trees and stores about 2 ¾ billion tons of Carbon. Terrible to say some climate denying legislators have tried for years to increase the logging of the Tongass’ old growth forest, in part to make ‘soft’ toilet paper. Some of these hemlock and cedar trees in the Tongass are 1000 years old and 200 ft tall. Think of all the carbon they are all keeping out of the atmosphere to slow Global Warming. Just recently President Biden has said, “No more industrial logging of the Tongass will be allowed.”
Some trees are better at sequestering CO2 than others. The characteristics that make trees good carbon sinks are: live a long time, grow very large, have a large canopy to aid in photosynthesis, grow quickly, are native trees, are resistant to diseases and insects, and have a hard dense wood. Deciduous trees meet some of these criteria but need to grow faster. Conifers are usually fast growers but tend to capture much less CO2 than hardwoods. Some of the top trees in our climate region are: Scarlet Oaks, Horse Chestnuts, and Silver Maples.
In summary old growth forests like Tongass and the Amazon Rain Forest must be immediately protected. Many new high quality carbon storing trees must be planted, and people need to find alternatives to wood and fossil fuels to use in their daily lives.