Don’t Look to Mature Forests to Soak Up Carbon Dioxide Emissions


Results of Australian study may have impact on New York state carbon neutrality goals.

Research published today in Nature suggests mature forests are limited in their ability to absorb "extra" carbon as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increase. These findings may have implications for New York state's carbon neutrality goals.

Dr. John Drake, assistant professor in ESF's Department of Sustainable Resources Management, is a co-author of the paper in collaboration with researchers at Western Sydney University.

The experiment, conducted at Western Sydney University's EucFACE (Eucalyptus Free Air CO2 Enrichment) found new evidence of limitations in the capacity of mature forests to translate rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations into additional plant growth and carbon storage.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is sometimes described as "food for plants" as it is the key ingredient in plant photosynthesis. With CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere increasing steadily due to human emissions, there is ample evidence that plant photosynthesis is going up. Experiments that have exposed single trees and young, rapidly growing forests to elevated CO2 concentrations have shown that plants use the extra carbon to grow faster. "Forests provide a wide array of environmental, economic and social benefits. Importantly, forests remove large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and store it, which slows down our climate crisis," said Drake.

Continue reading at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

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