A team of scientists from the University of Melbourne established that the older the tree gets, the more carbon it absorbs. The findings published in the latest issue of Nature reveal that as the years pass, an individual tree can play much more important role in the carbon cycle.
With this study, the scientists were able to prove wrong the common belief that young trees are better in absorbing carbon that the old ones, simply because the rate with which the trees grow depends on the amount of carbon it absorbs.
What makes the work particularly interesting is the size of the data set. The team studied almost 700,000 trees of just over 400 different species around the world. Thanks to the large scale of the study, the scientists could establish how the rates of absolute tree mass growth change and how this change influences the carbon absorption and storage ability of the trees. They were also able to describe how although the level of leaf productivity of an old tree decreases as it ages, the total leaf area is much bigger, therefore the individual tree fixes much higher quantities of carbon.
If you were one of these people, who feel as if they have always known this fact, and see this as old news, probably you would find some peace in the fact that the findings could be used to prove whether the amount of fixed carbon by a tree throughout its lifespan is greater than what it will release back to the atmosphere once it dies.
In any case, the scale of the data set and the information that the team was able to collect from around the world will surely serve a much larger purpose in the future. In the mean time, we should make sure that the moral of the story is passed on to everyone, and that is that we should not cut trees, regardless of their age and size, because they are the only 100% proven mean to fight global warming.