Plants, Trees, and Forests Could Remove Up to Six Years of Carbon Emissions from the Atmosphere
But that's only if major deforestation is halted in the near future.
Scientists have established the resounding benefits that thriving plants and trees have on ecosystems around the world—including their role in the natural offset of carbon in the atmosphere around us. But new research has quantified just how much emissions our greenery is able to naturally synthesize, especially if ecological preservation efforts are put into place to protect the forests and rural timberlands that remain undisturbed today.
A team of scientists at Imperial College London joined forces with researchers at Stanford University and the Autonomous University of Barcelona; together, they released their new research in the journal Nature Climate Change that analyzed more than 135 previously published experiments. Their work has effectively mapped the plants and trees that are crucial in neutralizing a massive amount of air pollution; according to their postulations, more than six years' worth of carbon emissions could be removed from our atmosphere by the year 2100. There's a key finding here, though; the research made it clear that no further mass deforestation could occur in order to keep results on track.
Every single plant—even common houseplants—grow by taking in carbon dioxide from the air; since carbon emissions have vastly increased, researchers report that most plants have grown larger than ever, meaning they're able to synthesize more CO2 than ever as well. That being said, it's important that common nutrients found in soil (including nitrogen and phosphorus) remain as vibrant as possible to promote healthy growth, which presents an additional cause to environmentalist's long battle to end deforestation.
"Keeping fossil fuels in the ground is the best way to limit further warming," said Dr. César Terrer, a lead author on the project at Stanford University's School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences, in a press release. "But stopping deforestation and preserving forests so they can grow more is our next-best solution."
While any rural forestation area plays an important role in our global ecosystem, researchers said that tropical forests scattered throughout the Congo, Indonesia, and the Amazon region are particularly crucial in their estimations. The team behind the findings are sharing their data with those who are working to reduce and stop mass deforestation in order to protect these particularly important areas. "We have already witnessed indiscriminate logging in pristine tropical forest, which are the largest reservoirs of biomass on this plane," Terrer said. "We stand to lose a tremendously important tool to limit global warming."