South Korean researchers say that cherry trees could be used to combat climate change, with the ability to offset greenhouse gases.
A study from South Korea’s Forest Research Institute indicated that each 25-year-old cherry tree can absorb about 20 pounds of emissions each, according to a Tuesday report from UPI.
The country’s cherry trees are said to be capable of absorbing about 2.4 tons of carbon, roughly equivalent to the emissions of 6,000 cars per year. Thee emissions of a single car can be absorbed by 250 mature trees.
Cherry trees are currently blooming in South Korea and viewing them at this time is a popular activity in the country, although restrictions currently in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic have limited the practice.
The amount of carbon absorbed by cherry trees may pale in comparison to other types of trees, with Black walnut, horse-chestnut, Douglas fir and pine trees among some that are thought to be especially adept.
The average mature tree can absorb 48 tons per year according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Trees absorb emissions with a system of respiration that also releases oxygen. The carbon that is absorbed by trees is then sequestered in trunks, roots, branches and leaves. Trees that have reached at least 20 years of age are believed to absorb carbon better than young or very old trees.
A significant amount of carbon is eventually released back into the atmosphere, typically within a couple hundred years as the trees die and decay. Small amounts are also released during respiration and the overall amount of carbon that trees can capture is also finite.
Environmentalists have long proposed planting massive amounts of trees in an effort to counter climate change and many government programs around the world have already been planting trees to help increase forested areas.
Research from 2019 indicated that up to two thirds of emissions currently in the atmosphere could be absorbed, leading some scientists to promote tree-planting as a powerful tool to combat climate change.
“[Forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” researcher Professor Tom Crowther of the Swiss university ETH Zürich told The Guardian. “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”
However, other scientists have been less enthusiastic and insist that reducing overall emissions remains the most effective strategy to mitigate climate change. In order for tree-planting have a significant effect on the climate, a trillion trees may need to be planted.
Although opinions are divided, some have warned against relying on mass tree-planting schemes due to risks of upsetting the biodiversity of areas where the trees are planted.
“There is an idea that you can just buy land and plant trees but that’s too simplistic—there is a risk of doing more harm than good,” Nathalie Seddon, professor of biodiversity at the University of Oxford, told the BBC.
Newsweek reached out to the EPA for comment.
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