asked by CB Nex on Wednesday 6th October 2010

Question

I want to know how much carbon a tree will take up on average over its lifetime?

I realise this will depend on:

type of tree<
where it grows
how long it lives

But I only need a rough figure (though it would be useful to know each of these points to give it context)

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+3 #2 gregeco 2010-07-14 11:07

Sequestration rates will vary depending on species, location (regional and site specific) and the planting and tending regime (if it's a plantation forest), amongst other things.

Sequestration rates change over the life of a tree as well. Eucalypts for example have high upfront seq rates but suffer from earlier senescence (i.e. they decay earlier). Fir trees grow more slowly but have a longer life span, so sequester carbon longer. Many pines fall somewhere in the middle. Again, this varies across sub species and regions.

To answer your question though. A tree that only sequesters 1 tonne doesn't sound healthy enough to last 100 years! A plantation pine tree (like those in North America or New Zealand) might sequester between 700 and 1200 tonnes over a typical 30 year rotation, prior to harvest.

Check out the look up tables published by the New Zealand Ministry of Forestry on growth rates for forests in the NZ ETS: http://www.maf.govt.nz/sustainable-forestry/ets/guide/lookup-table-guide.pdf

 
 
+1 #1 Karunakaran TK 2010-07-13 12:27

Yes you are right that it will depend on those factors. I have seen multiple sources say that a tree absorbs around 1 tonne of CO2 in its lifetime. Thats the rough figure.

I have found this document on how to calculate the amount of CO2 sequestered in a tree in an year. You might find it interesting - http://www.plant-trees.org/resources/Calculating%20CO2%20Sequestration%20by%20Trees.pdf

Here is some other interesting info I found that would give you a better context.

  • A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs./year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings.
  • Over a 50-year lifetime, a tree generates $31,250 worth of oxygen, provides $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and controls $31,250 worth of soil erosion.
  • Planting trees remains one of the cheapest, most effective means of drawing excess CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • Each person in the U.S. generates approximately 2.3 tons of CO2 each year. A healthy tree stores about 13 pounds of carbon annually -- or 2.6 tons per acre each year. An acre of trees absorbs enough CO2 over one year to equal the amount produced by driving a car 26,000 miles. An estimate of carbon emitted per vehicle mile is between 0.88 lb. CO2/mi. – 1.06 lb. CO2/mi. (Nowak, 1993). Thus, a car driven 26,000 miles will emit between 22,880 lbs CO2 and 27,647 lbs. CO2. Thus, one acre of tree cover in Brooklyn can compensate for automobile fuel use equivalent to driving a car between 7,200 and 8,700 miles. (Source: http://www.coloradotrees.org/benefits.htm)