Carbon Dioxide and Trees

Topics: Carbon dioxide, Carbon sequestration, Carbon sink Pages: 13 (4133 words) Published: February 10, 2013
Planting a tree has long been a suggestion to better the earth, possibly even preceding the outcry and warning of global warming, water crisis, etc. It was always one of those quaint ideas opted for to mark a special occasion, or to simply make one’s landscape a little prettier. Now days, with the new focus clearly pointing to the desperate need for action against the ongoing destruction of our natural resources, it is more common to hear the simple comment that part of what you can actually do to help is to plant a tree. It seems like such a simple and menial task. But the truth is; every tree makes a difference. One of the great functions each tree offers, besides its aesthetic addition, is the sequestering of CO2, carbon dioxide. To elaborate this importance, it is fair to paint the big picture. Heat is trapped in the earth’s atmosphere due to high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat trapping gases which ultimately prohibit the heat from being released into space. This is what has caused the virulent phenomenon call “Greenhouse Effect.” Trees naturally remove CO2 from the atmosphere during the state of photosynthesis and use the gas to form carbohydrates utilized in the plant’s structure/function, and in turn releases the pertinent gas, Oxygen (O2) as a byproduct. It is considered that trees act as what some call a Carbon Sink, storing the gas in its branches, trunk, leaves etc. instead of leaving the gas to become free floating and further polluting the atmosphere. In this natural function alone, trees directly reduce the growth of the Greenhouse Effect and counteract Global Warming. Furthermore, trees offer shade in the summer and act as windbreakers during cooler seasons. This inadvertently reduces the greenhouse effects by eliminating, or at least minimizing, the need for air conditioners and heaters; respectively reducing the amount of fossil fuels burned as energy. Studies show that a single tree can soak up as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year and produce enough oxygen to sustain two human beings. Figuratively, a single human produces approximately 2.3 tons of CO2 per year. Considering a healthy tree stores about 13 pounds per year, it would take nearly an acre (an acre consumer 2.6 tons annually) of trees to entirely counter the effects of just one human. In an another sense, an acre of trees covers the CO2 emission of approximately 26,000 miles driven by one vehicle. There are clearly not enough acres available in the world to be filled with trees to create an enormous dent; however in an ideal lifetime, if every American family planted just one tree, that effort would positively affect the world by reducing 5% of the CO2 released into the atmosphere each year. In a perfect world, mind you. On another note, trees are brilliant cleansers. They remove other pollutants through the stomates in the leaf surface. This is particularly good in urban areas, so trees should be abundant in city parks, as well they should riddle the landscaping of suburbia. This is an overall air quality enhancer, and a much needed one at that. Trees also slow storm water runoff after large downpours and help to control erosion. They provide natural habitats for many small creatures, and reduce the temperature by providing shade. All in all, a tree is not just a beautiful creature standing amongst the many phenomenal picturesque settings of this world. It is a powerful and vital tool that directly ensures our survival. We, as an entire race, literally would not be alive if it were not for these oxygen pumping machines. The fact that they help balance the ecosystem and ultimately lend a hand, or rather branch, in reversing the mess we have created is a blessing. It is a wonder we don’t overzealously run out and plant as many trees as we can find space for, considering the assets provided by such a small amount of effort. Planting trees really does, in all fairness, save lives. As previously...
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