12. All states shall negotiate to preserve and protect forests and enhance carbon sinks

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Rapporteur: Metta Spencer

Carbon Sinks

A carbon sink is a reservoir that stores carbon, keeping it sequestered instead of circulating in the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. Plants, the ocean, and soil are the main carbon sinks in nature. Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air for use in photosynthesis, leaving some of this carbon in the soil when they die and decompose. The oceans also store much of the planet’s carbon dioxide.

All of these sinks are being ruined by human activities today, and heroic measures are required to protect them and use them even more extensively to sequester carbon and prevent runaway global warming. Here we will examine these natural carbon sinks as well as some technological inventions that are being proposed for use in capturing and storing or recycling carbon.


Some nations occupy land with large carbon sinks such as rainforests. And some nations — especially the industrially advanced ones — emit disproportionate amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. We are all being challenged now to reduce such emissions, mainly by using less fossil fuel. People living in rich countries find this especially hard to do, for we are accustomed to the use of abundant energy. At the same time, we are asking people in the less developed countries not to adopt the same greenhouse gas-emitting technologies that had made us rich. This is unfair, but it is also essential. Every country must cut back, including both those that caused most of the global warming problem itself and those blameless ones that will be forced unjustly to sacrifice. But naturally, not all countries seem willing to accept the necessary deprivations.

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We should GENERALLY protect forests, but not those in permafrost. They are speeding up the melting–at least most the those in the Arctic. If anything, they should be cut down.

Bryophytes and cryptogamic covers are an often overlooked carbon sink. These terms refer to organisms such as algae, lichens, and mosses. In some regions – such as certain areas of Iceland – these are one of the few plant-like organisms which grow. As such, it is important to address their role in broad and specific ecological systems – as well as their role in assisting with global climate change.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry noted that these organisms were often omitted from climate models and started researching the role that these played in greenhouse gas cycles.

“Mat-forming ‘‘ground layers’’ of mosses and lichens often have functional impacts disproportionate to their biomass, and are responsible for sequestering one-third of the world’s terrestrial carbon as they regulate water tables, cool soils and inhibit microbial decomposition.”

Link: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/49119


“Cyptogamic covers are responsible for about half of the naturally occurring nitrogen fixation on land and they take up as much carbon dioxide as is released yearly from biomass burning.”

Link: https://phys.org/news/2012-06-algae-lichens-mosses-huge-amounts.html

Though – there is some debate – as some research points that temperatures above 20C cause these organisms to release large amounts of methane and nitrous oxide.

Link: https://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/15822/20150727/mosses-unexpectedly-release-greenhouse-gasses-more-powerful-c02.htm

Historically – for many Arctic regions – specifically those inland – it would be rare for 20C to be sustained more than a few days a year – if at all – though this is changing with climate change and is becoming increasingly more frequent.

An interesting article on Popular Mechanics about a newly emerging field of science (pyroaerobiology) which examines how forest fires spread life – specifically microbial life. Interestingly, on a tangentially related note, scientists working at the Chernobyl site noted that radiation contamination impedes fungal, insect, and microbial activity (such as decomposition) and can contribute to the increased risk of large forest fires – such as through a larger layer of leaves, old trunks, etc. on the forest floor.

A summary:

“Pyroaerobiology, a new field of science with a badass name, seeks to understand how colonies of bacteria, fungi, archaea, and viruses are swept up in smoke. These organisms float off into distant lands thousands of miles away, altering the microbial composition of the ecosystem. Microbes floating in this smoke can also impact the weather, seeding the ice crystals that form clouds. There’s also been evidence to suggest these microbiotic zoos could potentially contain allergens that could be harmful to humans.”

Leda Kobziar – the inventor of the field and scientist publishing materials on it – “became curious about smoke after I learned that bacteria were being added to snow-making machines—believe it or not—because they act as powerful ice nucleators, which means they can be the nuclei for ice crystals, [spawning snowflakes] at higher temperatures than you would otherwise find.”


“Some of these are organisms that you would typically find in ambient air, but they’re highly concentrated, so we see a lot more of them than we would find in ambient air conditions. Others are organisms that are not typically found in ambient air. So there are things that grow deep in the soil or grow in the insides of plants and not things that would generally be aerosolized just by wind.”


“There’s just as much possibility that the movement of these organisms through the smoke has a beneficial impact. Some microbes called “endophytes” can increase plant growth and yield and some even act as antibiotics against plant pathogens, thereby assisting their host species.

We’ve seen a lot of bacteria that act as nitrogen fixers. Of course, nitrogen is the building block of all protein and everything that exists on earth. We wouldn’t have anything if it weren’t for these bacteria, and we’ve seen these bacteria being transported.”

Popular Mechanics, Dec. 20, 2019

Besides carbon dioxide we have to worry about methane too. It is apparently produced mainly by the agricultural sector — either by ruminant livestock or by rice paddies. But there are methanotropic bacteria that consume methane. From what i have been reading, they live mainly in swamps and waterways. But shouldn’t there be more of them and shouldn’t they live in pastures where the cows produce all that methane? Does anybody know much about these little guys? They sound like things we want to make friends with.

Who needs carbon “sinks” when, as the subconscious general mentality allows us, Earth’s entire atmosphere and water systems can be and are used as our carbon dumps?
Perhaps due to (everyone’s sole spaceship) Earth’s large size, there seems to be a general obliviousness in regards to our natural environment. It’s as though throwing non-biodegradable garbage down a dark chute, or pollutants emitted out of exhaust and drainage pipes, or spewed from sky-high jet engines and very tall smoke stacks—or even the largest contamination events—can somehow be safely absorbed into the air, sea, and land (i.e. out of sight, out of mind); like we’re safely inconsequentially dispensing of that waste into a compressed-into-nothing black-hole singularity.
It’s undoubtedly convenient for the fossil fuel industry to have such a large portion of mainstream society simply too exhausted and preoccupied with just barely feeding and housing their families on a substandard, if not below the poverty line, income to criticize the former for the great damage it’s doing to our planet’s natural environment and therefore our health, particularly when that damage may not be immediately observable.
After all, why worry about such things immediately unseen, regardless of their most immense importance, especially when there are various undesirable politicians and significant social issues over which to dispute—distractions our mainstream news-media sadly are only too willing to sell us?
To have almost everyone addicted to driving their own fossil-fuel-powered single occupant vehicle surely helps keep their collective mouths shut about the planet’s greatest and very profitable polluter, lest they feel like and/or be publicly deemed hypocrites.

New Discovery on the Mechanics of Keeping Carbon in the Soil and What It Means For Your Pastures
By Kathy Voth / On Pasture. October 21, 2019
. https://onpasture.com/

Imagine you’re a carbon molecule floating in the atmosphere and your mission is to get from there into the soil and stay there for decades.

Your first step – slip into a plant through an open stoma.

Stomata are microscopic openings on the surfaces of plant leaves that allow for the easy passage of water vapor, carbon dioxide and oxygen. They are crucial to the function of leaves as photosynthesis requires plenty of carbon dioxide as well as the release of waste oxygen and excess water.

Inside the plant you go through your first transformation: photosynthesis. You’re combined with water (H20) and photons from sunlight to become glucose (C6H12O6). You’re now part of the body of the plant. From here, there are multiple routes to your destination, some that take much longer than others. You could become part of the body of a cow, or part of her manure. You might be part of a plant that gets trampled onto the soil, or you might be part of the roots that get sloughed off periodically underground.

Which ever route you take, you eventually end up in the soil as organic matter – a tasty meal for soil microbes. As they eat, they respire carbon back into the atmosphere as CO2. That means that if you’re going to accomplish your mission of staying in the soil, you have to avoid these hungry microbes.
How do you get away and become sequestered?

That’s the puzzle that scientists have been working on, and they’ve recently discovered how carbon molecules escape: through very tiny pore spaces in the soil.

A team of researchers led by Alexandra Kravchenko found that the pores in the range of 30-150 µm (about the size of 1 to 3 human hairs) can trap carbon molecules, making them inaccessible to the microorganisms that might otherwise consume them and send. Of course, the more of these tiny spaces there are, the more carbon is effectively sequestered in the soil. Knowing how to create those environments will help us sequester more carbon, improving soil fertility, improving forage production and wildlife habitat, and increasing resilience to droughts and floods.

To help us with this, over a nine-year period, Alexandra Kravchenko and her team studied five cropping systems: continuous corn, corn with cover crops, a switchgrass monoculture, a poplar system with trees and undergrowth, and native succession. In the end, only the two systems with high plant diversity, poplar and native succession, resulted in higher levels of total carbon.

“What we found in native prairie, probably because of all the interactions between the roots of diverse species, is that the entire soil matrix is covered with a network of pores. Thus, the distance between the locations where the carbon input occurs, and the mineral surfaces on which it can be protected is very short,” says Kravchenko. Having these readily available escape routes means that more carbon is sequestered for the long-term.

Kravchenko writes that the 30-150 µm pores are associated with the most active microorganisms that can respond rapidly to increased carbon inputs. When these pores are spread throughout the soil, as they were in the more diverse systems the team studied, the volume of the soil matrix receiving and protecting the products of microbial decomposition is greater as well, and the more soil carbon is accrued. So, while the switchgrass monoculture had the largest root mass and did create the small poor spaces necessary, there was an absence of the necessary volume of pore spaces. Once the layer next to the pore was saturated, most of the carbon was oxidized into CO2 and returned to the atmosphere.

Figure 5 from the paper: Microbial footprint defines the soil volume available for C protection. Schematic representation of the effect that the abundance of 30–150 μm pores has on the size of the spatial footprint of microorganisms residing in such pores in perennial switchgrass monoculture and biodiverse native vegetation systems

What this tells us is that simply increasing biomass, in the form of above ground residue or below ground roots, does not necessarily help us accumulate more carbon in the soil. We now know that, not only does the plant community help determine the soil microbial community, but by adding to and changing soil pore space, they help define where microorganisms can live and how well they can function. The larger the “footprint” of the microbial community the better it is for keeping carbon in the soil.
What can you do with this?

The lesson once again is that diversity is important. If you’re looking across your pasture and see one species, think about how you might add more. Some folks have found that all it takes is better grazing management to create an environment that helps a greater variety of plants to thrive and grow. If you’re considering seeding, talk to your supplier or with Natural Resources Conservation Service, Conservation District, or Extension staff in your area about what kind of mixes will work best for you. If you’re managing row crops, use a variety of cover crops. Avoid monocultures whenever possible.

Here’s a brilliant article that will make you want to turn your lawn into something more convenient. But it doesn’t suggest that you turn it into a forest. Why not? That’s what the world really needs — about two trillion additional trees, and your lawn is the best place for you to plant your share of them. Still, this great article may motivate you to turn in the right direction. Please share it with everyone you know who has control of a piece of land that’s not already devoted to food crops or trees.

“Why Everybody Wants a Lawn: And Why it’s Killing the Planet” By Matt J. Weber
Medium Environment, June 26, 2018

This is my lawn. I mow it, water it, pull weeds, and occasionally enjoy it. Though it’s not the greatest lawn in the world, it’s pretty typical. Everybody on my block has one. In fact, pretty much every house in this town has a lawn — each one tended to relentlessly by its owner-occupier.

But what insidious force compels me to expend so much energy on this measly plot of grass? Why not let it grow to its full potential? What’s wrong with a few dandelions? Why do I need a nice lawn at all?

Well, like most things in this world, I can pin the blame squarely on medieval aristocracy. But seriously, the invention of the lawn mower, the passage of the 40-hour work week, and the mass production of cheap housing all contributed to my insatiable desire for a nice, big lawn.

First, though, let’s talk about Angiosperms.

Angiosperms rule the Earth. They’ve been around since the dinosaurs. Today, they occupy over 90 percent of the planet’s land surface. Angiosperms are flowering plants. They constitute most of the plant species on the planet, including all flowers, fruiting plants, deciduous trees, and yes, grasses. Grass itself covers over 40 percent of the Earth’s surface. Our ancestors evolved in the vast grasslands of prehistoric Africa. We are grassland animals. It’s our natural habitat. No wonder it is by far the most common plant used in our lawns.

In the United States, lawns take up more acreage than the top eight crops combined.

But it wasn’t always like this. We didn’t really even start having lawns until the 19th century. And they didn’t really take off until after World War II.

Before that, lawns were mostly limited to the wealthy upper classes of medieval Europe. Nobility were the only ones who could afford to set aside and maintain land that didn’t produce food or contribute to their livelihood in any way. See, maintaining a lawn was hard work back then. The grass had to be cut by hand, using a scythe or shears. Of course, the landed elite that owned these lawns weren’t going to be rolling up their ruffled sleeves and getting their cravats dirty scything their own lawns. No way. They paid people to do that for them. So not only was a lawn a ton of work, it was very expensive.

That is, until the invention of the lawn mower in 1830. Through mechanizing lawn care, virtually anyone — not just the extremely rich — could maintain a lawn. As sports and lawn games became more popular, so did lawns. If you could afford the land and the lawn mowing machine, you were set.

Because extreme wealth was no longer necessary for lawn maintenance, an aspiring lawn owner need only the time to tend to it. But before 1938, many in the U.S. had to work more than eight hours a day during the week and half days on Saturdays. That left little time to take care of a lawn. But in 1938, congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, mandating the 40-hour work week. Suddenly, workers were free (enough) to conceivably manage a lawn.

But the lawn’s greatest ally was still to come.
Enter, the Suburb

As the cities of the 19th century grew more crowded and industrial, those who could afford it began to move. But they couldn’t move too far away. The jobs were still in the city. So communities sprang up on the outskirts of metropolitan areas, far enough to escape from the density and pollution of the inner city but close enough to commute to work. These were the first suburbs. Many of the houses in these suburban communities were built on enough land to have their own lawns.

Soon, the condition of the lawn became synonymous with the caliber of its homeowner’s character.

While suburbs began to surround most major cities in the US at the turn of the 20th century, they didn’t really take off until after World War II. An influx of war veterans seeking homes increased the demand for cheap, plentiful housing. The GI Bill made it possible for these returning soldiers to buy homes at discounted rates. To keep up with the housing demand, cheap, mass produced housing began to expand throughout the United States.

It was all thanks to William Jaird Levitt.

By circumventing unions, cutting out middlemen, and turning the construction of a home into 27 systematic steps, Levitt created what was essentially the first assembly line for large-scale, low-cost housing. Soon, these Levitt-style housing developments were popping up all over the United States, each one ordained with a pristine plot of well-manicured grass.

Now everybody could have a nice, big lawn.

Well, not really.

Levitt was super racist and restricted the sale of his homes to white Americans. Sales agents were explicitly instructed not to accept any applications from African Americans — even if they were war veterans. So not everybody got a nice, big lawn.

But these suburbs began to represent the American Dream — a place where anyone with a can-do spirit and a hardworking attitude (and the right complexion) could obtain their own piece of land with their very own pre-fabricated home, complete with 2.5 kids and an immaculate lawn. Soon, the condition of the lawn became synonymous with the caliber of its homeowner’s character. A well-maintained lawn meant a well-run, hardworking household, populated by true Americans who work 40 hours during the week but don’t spend their weekends in idleness. No, they have a lawn to take care of. It needs to be mowed and watered. Unwelcome plant varieties need to be removed to make room for a perfectly uniform mat of green grass. An overgrown, neglected lawn reflected laziness on the part of the homeowner, even a decrepitude of moral fiber. Because if you’re not maintaining your lawn to the same standards as your neighbors, you must be some kind of social deviant. Just as Levitt was enforcing a monoculture within his suburbs, his homeowners were cultivating a monoculture of plants in their lawns.

Having a nice, big lawn is more than just a symbolic act. Many communities across the U.S. actively police the upkeep of their neighborhood’s lawns. Homeowners can be subject to a fine if their grass isn’t clipped short enough or if their yard doesn’t adhere to the community’s standards of lawn care.

It’s all pretty insane when you think about it. But humans are weird. Especially Americans.
Lawns, Meet Climate Change

Our national obsession with lawns is putting a real strain on the environment.

We apply more synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to our lawns than an equivalent area of cropland. Not only can this hurt local wildlife, these chemicals can end up in our own drinking water. The manufacture and use of these chemicals require large amounts of fossil fuels and contribute to global warming. Lawnmowers and landscaping equipment account for 10-18 percent of non-transportation related gasoline emissions. Running a single lawn mower for an hour emits just as much pollution as 40 automobiles, according to the EPA (though some dispute this claim, they agree that a single lawn mower produces more pollution than multiple cars). In a year, a hectare of lawn can contribute as many greenhouse gases as a jet flying halfway around the world. Not to mention that an estimated 17 million gallons of gasoline are spilled every summer while refueling those lawn mowers. That’s almost two Exxon Valdez-scale oil spills every year, right in our front yard.

Most critically, lawns require a lot of water: 50–70 percent of all residential water in the United States goes to landscaping. Irrigated lawns take up nearly three times as much space as irrigated corn. To maintain that amount of grass on a daily basis, nine billion gallons of water need to be allocated to our lawns. That’s like every person in the United States dumping 30 gallons of fresh, drinkable water onto the ground, every single day.

Properly maintained, a lawn can actually help fight climate change while still providing space for barbecues and bocce ball.

But our lawns don’t have to be this much of a drain on the environment. First, we can reduce the amount of fertilizers and pesticides we use just by switching up the plants in our lawn. We don’t need uniform mats of grass. Low maintenance shrubs, herbs, or perennials can take the place of grass and increase the biodiversity of your lawn. Some plants can reduce the amount of time needed for mowing, and increase the natural carbon sequestration potential of our lawns. After all, grasslands are the planet’s great carbon sinks. Properly maintained, a lawn can actually help fight climate change while still providing space for barbecues and bocce ball.

We need only change what it means to have a nice, big lawn.

Truly, environmentally sustainable lawns would be better measures of our moral fiber as citizens of planet Earth than any of those old medieval lawns ever were.

Shocking statistics. Do lawns have a greater or lesser ecological / environmental impact than cases where people simply pave over them (either with asphalt or interlocking brick)? When people pave over these surfaces, it often increases the albedo effect – as well as reduces soil health. Is this a better or worse trade-off than a uniform grass lawn? I have noticed this trend of paving over front yards (not for car parking – but for landscaping purposes) in several urban districts in Toronto.

I am additionally shocked to hear the estimations for how much fuel is spilled in relation to lawncare alone. Two Exxon Valdez spills a year just from lawn care. Is this figure globally or just for the USA? I am additionally shocked to hear the comparisons in relation to the jet liners.

Several years ago, I used to use sugar cane paper (notebooks) when writing notes – particularly in high school and first year of university. I have not seen these notebooks for sale for a while – though will check more stores the next time I go to buy a notebook. This paper was made from leftover components of the sugar cane industry – which made a paper similar to contemporary wood pulp paper.

I recently looked back into this and it turns out there is some research in the field – as it reduces waste from the sugar industry – and may have environmental benefits. Some of the products use an estimated 80% less wood-based products than traditional papers. One of the technical names for this is called bagasse – this is the name for sugar cane by-products – used in various industries, such as biofuel or paper manufacturing.

Perhaps some school boards could look into this initiative based on affordability and environmental benefits – as a way to reduce their environmental footprints.

I’m tired of Americans pointing fingers at places like Borneo and Brazil. We consume 25% of the earth’s wood products, and build houses out of lumber, 1/3 of which comes from Canadian clearcuts. Our “green” organizations are scared of the American timber industry. Until that changes, we all go down.

What are your thoughts on this trend of timber-based high-rises? The University of Toronto is proposing plans for a 14-storey high rise adjacent to the Munk School of Global Affairs – but it will be constructed of a timber frame…

I think context is important… how do the clear-cuts (as bad as these are) compare in Borneo vs. Brazil vs. Canada? Are some more sustainable sources of lumber than others? Surely clear-cutting is not the best forest management strategy by any means.

What role does reclaimed lumber play in relation to ecological / environmental impacts? I heard several years ago that reclaimed lumber (including some from logs sank to the bottom of the Ottawa River in the 19th century) was a designer trend.

Timber high rises are a PR effort by companies like Weyerhauser and Georgia Pacific. It’s ridiculous to build high rises from wood, which is both heavier and weaker than steel. They are strictly PR stunts, subsidized by the timber industry. No architect or engineer would design them on his own. When one of them catches fire, and they can’t put it out, we will hear all kinds of excuses. Anything but the truth.

Allegedly the timber components are stronger than conventional wood – as they are multiple layers of wood glued together. This increased density of material additionally assists with fire prevention purposes. Do you have any insight – from your perspective – as to why wood skyscrapers have become somewhat popular in Scandinavia?

Chicago and London are both researching wooden skyscrapers 80-storeys tall, whereas Taiwan has one planned (70 storeys) for 2041. Is this possible with the compression that will be exerted on the on the wood materials as the weight of the upper floors press down on the base? How will these survive potential intense storms and/or earthquakes? Even if it is possible, is it wise to construct such large buildings out of a material such as wood?

“Canadians asked to find ash trees in a bid to preserve the species: Co-ordinator for the National Tree Seed Centre in Fredericton, McPhee is asking Canadians to help him find mature stands where seeds can be gathered and later stored for future generations in the centre’s deep-freeze vaults.

“We’re looking to protect the genetic diversity of the species,” McPhee said in an interview. “We’re looking for natural stands of trees that are in seed …. We want Canadians to be our eyes — to let us know they’re out there.”

“Jon Sweeney, a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service, said the loss of ash trees also means the loss of the 44 species of insects and other organisms that depend on this particular type of tree.

“When the ash trees go, you lose more than the trees,” said Sweeney. “You get complications.”

“Aside from the environmental impact, there will be an economic impact as well, considering white ash is used to make baseball bats, hockey sticks, canoe paddles and many types of tool handles, ladders and furniture.

“It’s going to cost municipalities millions, if not billions, of dollars to cover tree removal and replacement costs,” Sweeney said from Fredericton.

“It can cost you $200 to take a tree down, or it can cost you $2,000 … (And) if your house is no longer shaded, you’ll be paying more for air conditioning.”

More information available here: https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/canadians-asked-to-find-ash-trees-in-a-bid-to-preserve-the-species-1.4568217?fbclid=IwAR3MPf8XD6BNSBCN0TYmC_edX4ReIJWXW3UBq7o6au_oKiK524hb2pWsuIA

An interesting article by Julie Jocsak at the Saint Catharine’s Standard (1 March 2019) around the restoration of oak savannah ecosystems in the Niagara region of Ontario. Many oak savannas have been over-taken by introduced and invasive species, threatening endemic and native eco-systems’ flora and fauna.


This Bolsonaro guy is apparently one of the most dangerous people on the planet. What can the rest of the world do about his policies?

See the New York Times on Amazon deforestation here.

The permafrost is a huge carbon sink. These wildfires in the Arctic must be speeding up the melting. Does anyone know how much effect they are having?

Seriously, something has to be done urgently about Bolsonaro’s horrible policies. Surely he must be open to a financial deal, isn’t he? Who is trying to organize a campaign to pay him to keep the rainforest intact?

I just read an article about how he was elected by a combination of YouTube and WhatApp — though they didn’t intend to do it. It seems that the poor of Brazil rely on WhatApp to get clips of videos that they cannot afford to watch with YouTube (I guess the connectivity price is too high or something). So there were right-wing disinformation campaigns on YouTube that got picked up and spread among working class Brazilians, who therefore voted for Bolsonaro on the basis of it.

This is a serious critique of the potential that forestry offers for reducing climate change. I cannot appraise it but I think it should be taken seriously I hope someone works through the logic.

For First Time Ever, Scientists Identify How Many Trees to Plant and Where to Plant Them to Stop Climate Crisis
Good News Network

Jul 7, 2019
Around 0.9 billion hectares (2.2 billion acres) of land worldwide would be suitable for reforestation, which could ultimately capture two thirds of human-made carbon emissions.
The Crowther Lab of ETH Zurich has published a study in the journal Science that shows this would be the most effective method to combat climate change.
The Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich investigates nature-based solutions to climate change. In their latest study, the researchers showed for the first time where in the world new trees could grow and how much carbon they would store.
Study lead author and postdoc at the Crowther Lab Jean-François Bastin explains: “One aspect was of particular importance to us as we did the calculations: we excluded cities or agricultural areas from the total restoration potential as these areas are needed for human life.”
LOOK: Rooftop Panels of Tiny Plants Can Cleanse Polluted Air at 100 Times the Rate of a Single Tree
The researchers calculated that under the current climate conditions, Earth’s land could support 4.4 billion hectares of continuous tree cover. That is 1.6 billion more than the currently existing 2.8 billion hectares. Of these 1.6 billion hectares, 0.9 billion hectares fulfill the criterion of not being used by humans. This means that there is currently an area of the size of the US available for tree restoration. Once mature, these new forests could store 205 billion tonnes of carbon: about two thirds of the 300 billion tonnes of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity since the Industrial Revolution.
Photo by Crowther Lab / ETH Zurich
According to Prof. Thomas Crowther, co-author of the study and founder of the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich: “We all knew that restoring forests could play a part in tackling climate change, but we didn’t really know how big the impact would be. Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today. But we must act quickly, as new forests will take decades to mature and achieve their full potential as a source of natural carbon storage.”
WATCH: Tree-Planting Drones Have Successfully Planted Thousands of Saplings – and They’re About to Plant More
The study also shows which parts of the world are most suited to forest restoration. The greatest potential can be found in just six countries: Russia (151 million hectares); the US (103 million hectares); Canada (78.4 million hectares); Australia (58 million hectares); Brazil (49.7 million hectares); and China (40.2 million hectares).

Many current climate models are wrong in expecting climate change to increase global tree cover, the study warns. It finds that there is likely to be an increase in the area of northern boreal forests in regions such as Siberia, but tree cover there averages only 30 to 40%. These gains would be outweighed by the losses suffered in dense tropical forests, which typically have 90 to 100% percent tree cover.
CHECK OUT: NASA Happily Reports the Earth is Greener, With More Trees Than 20 Years Ago–and It’s Thanks to China, India
A tool on the Crowther Lab website enables users to look at any point on the globe, and find out how many trees could grow there and how much carbon they would store. It also offers lists of forest restoration organizations. The Crowther Lab will also be present at this year’s Scientifica (website available in German only) to show the new tool to visitors.
The Crowther Lab uses nature as a solution to: 1) better allocate resources – identifying those regions which, if restored appropriately, could have the biggest climate impact; 2) set realistic goals – with measurable targets to maximize the impact of restoration projects; and 3) monitor progress – to evaluate whether targets are being achieved over time, and take corrective action if necessary.
Reprinted from ETH Zürich


The federal government is putting up $15 million over four years to rescue the 50 Million Tree Program which was cut by the Ontario government of Premier Doug Ford in its last budget, CBC News has learned.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna made the announcement today in Ottawa, saying the new cash will extend the program for at least another four years.

She said in a statement to CBC News on Tuesday evening that preserving the program will mean cleaner air, a healthier environment and good local jobs.

“While Mr. Ford cuts programs that support tree planting … and tackling climate change, we will continue to invest in a clean future for our environment, our economy and our kids,” she said.

The 50 Million Tree Program had an annual budget of $4.7 million and had planted more than 27 million trees across the province since 2008. Its goal was to have 50 million planted by 2025.

But a day after Ontario’s budget was delivered, Forests Ontario, the non-profit group that oversees the program, was told funding for it was being eliminated.

This new funding will essentially support the planting and growth of 10 million trees, bringing the program’s total to 37 million. Support for the program beyond that target is not part of this announcement.

Ontario cancels program that aimed to plant 50 million trees
Doug Ford government one of the most ‘anti-environmental’ in generations, says Green Party leader
Rob Keen, CEO of Forests Ontario, said it takes three to four years for a tree to go from seed to planting.

Every year, the four key nurseries in Ontario participating in the program cultivate 2.5 million seeds between them, which they nurse over three years until they are ready to be planted in their permanent settings.

The funding cut left 7.5 million saplings at various stages of growth in limbo, with nursery owners unsure how they were going to fund their crops until they were ready to plant.

Sustaining the program
Nurseries have been asking if they should be planting seeds to be ready for 2023, Keen said.

“If you don’t have the funding in place … nurseries are not going to plant.”

The new funding “is fantastic because it provides that assurance that there’s going to be funding in there to use up the stock that is currently in the ground and plant some more stock,” he said.

Ed Patchell, CEO of the Ferguson Tree Nursery in Kemptville, Ont., also welcomes the funding. He told CBC News he has three million trees at his nursery at various stages of growth. He said he was unsure what to do with them but is pleased they will now be guaranteed a permanent home when they are ready to plant.

Ontario cuts conservation authority funding for flood programs
Internal poll finds voters have negative opinion of PCs environmental policies
“I think it’s great that the feds have stepped up. I would like to see the province step up, to see a value in the program and contribute as well, but we’ll see what happens,” he said.

While nurseries now have the confidence to plant a crop now for delivery in 2023, Keen said it remains unclear if there will be funding next year to plant again.

About 40 per cent forest cover is needed to ensure forest sustainability, Keen said, and the average right now in southern Ontario is 26 per cent, with some areas as low as five per cent.

“The 50 Million Tree Program has been great, but we need to plant one billion trees to really get the forest canopy up in southern Ontario,” he said.

Balancing the budget
Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski told CBC in a statement that his government is focused on balancing the budget to “protect critical public services like health care and education.”

“In order to do this we have to maximize value for the taxpayer dollar,” he said. “We remind other levels of government that there is only one taxpayer, and that we have committed to balancing Ontario’s budget in a responsible manner.”

“Previous governments who did not share this commitment to fiscal restraint are responsible for saddling Ontario with a $347,000,000,000 debt.”

Yakabuski said that the 50 Million Tree Program only plants 2.5 million trees per year, while the forestry industry plants about 68 million trees annually.

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From Derek Markham @derekmarkham
Perhaps one day in the distant future we’ll be able to go 3D-print an apple tree, or build an internet-connected modular maple tree from a kit, or have access to hyper-trees that grow at 10X the normal rate, but until that day arrives (and probably for long after), we’ll need to keep buying young trees, planting seeds, and taking cuttings the old-fashioned way, which is actually much simpler and cheaper than any tech solution to anything.

They say that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but since we don’t have an app for time travel yet, we’ll have to focus on planting during the second best time, which is right now. And you don’t have to have a massive lot or backyard in order to plant trees for food, shade, or beauty, as there are many tree varieties that remain small enough to not crowd or shade out everything else, and which can function as either the canopy layer or the sub-canopy in permaculture-style plantings even in a smaller space.

Here are 10 great tree varieties for small yards and gardens:

1. Serviceberry:
A number of species of Amalanchier, or serviceberry, are available, with varying heights ranging from shrub-sized to small tree, and with some producing a delicious blueberry-like fruit after the fragrant white flowers are pollinated. Also called saskatoon, juneberry, shadbush, or sugar-plum, serviceberry trees also produce a flash of fall color when their leaves turn, and can thrive in a wide variety of climates.

2. Crape Myrtle:
Sometimes referred to as the “lilac of the South,” crape (or crepe) myrtle (Lagerstroemia) trees are well-suited to full sun locations, are heat tolerant, and produce showy flowers even in poor soil. A variety of sizes of crape myrtle are available, from a compact shrub to a 30-foot tree, with flowers ranging from white to fuchsia, and with an “exfoliating” bark that offers winter contrast.

3. Dogwood:
Although the flowering dogwood (Conus florida) is the most commonly seen kind of dogwood, there are a number of other varieties of dogwoods, ranging from shrub-sized to tree-sized, but most will thrive in moist, shadier locations. With showy flowers in white, pink, or red, dogwoods can add a burst of spring color to the yard, and certain species, such as the Korean dogwood (Cornus kousa) produce an edible fruit, while other species’ fruit is more suited to the wildlife.

4. Japanese Maple:
Acer palmatum is a fairly common landscape tree, and with good reason, as its small stature and bold colors can be a great accent in a little space. Japanese maple trees come in hundreds of varieties, with a wide range of leaf types, growth habits, and colors, but most of them are best suited for partially shaded locations, and although the flowers are rather modest, the fall leaf color of these trees can more than make up for that. Although the fruit (samara) isn’t edible, according to The Spruce, the Japanese sometimes fry the maple leaves to make candies.

5. Witchhazel:
The source of the common astringent named after it, witchhazel (or witch hazel) grows as a small tree or a large shrub bearing fragrant yellow or orange-red fall or winter flowers (which is why it’s also sometimes called winterbloom). With several species commonly available, and many cultivars, witchhazels come in a number of sizes and shapes, and as the Chicago Botanic Gardens says, “the only major drawback to witch hazels lies at their roots—a preference for well-drained, loamy, acidic soil means that they grow less than happily in clay soil.”

6: Elderberry:
Elderberries (Sambucus) are most often seen as shrubs, although varieties that grow more like a small tree are available, and their flowers and berries are good for pollinators and other wildlife, while the fruit is also prized for making jam, wine, pies, and other delicacies. According to Garden.org, elderberries “grow best in a slightly acidic soil that is high in organic matter and stays consistently moist,” but that is well-drained, and are suited to full or part-sun locaions.

7: Apple:
Although a full-sized apple tree might overwhelm a small yard, dwarf apple trees can stay at or under 8 feet tall, while still producing a good-sized crop of full-sized fruit. There are literally thousands of varieties of apple trees, many of which are grafted onto dwarf rootstock, which keeps the trees smaller, while upper portion (the scion wood) determines the quality and type of fruit. From sweet early summer apples to late season keeper apples, there are apple varieties for just about any eating preference, and while some dwarf varieties can still grow larger than intended, judicious pruning can keep them in check. Many common fruit trees are available in dwarf sizes that would fit a small yard, such as peaches, apricots, pears, cherries, and more.

8: Fig:
There’s nothing quite like a ripe fig, right off the tree, and although figs seem like they’re only for Mediterranean zones, there are fig varieties that can be successfully grown in a number of different climates, and in small spaces. Fig trees can be cultivated in protected areas in some northern climates, and can even thrive in pots or containers, which can then be brought inside or sheltered during the winter, and in contrast with other fruit trees, can benefit from heavy pruning each year to keep them to size.

9. Vitex:
The chaste tree, or monk’s pepper (Vitex agnus-castus), is a multi-trunk small tree with clusters of fragrant purple flowers and lacy gray-green leaves. The fruit resembles a peppercorn and is used in alternative medicine, and the flowers are a favorite of butterflies, bees, and people alike. Vitex grows best in full or part-sun locations with well-drained soil, and can aggressively invade nearby soil in the right conditions. According to folklore, the tree was named so because it was believed that it was an anaphrodisiac, with medieval monks having chewed its leaves to help them maintain their vows of celibacy.

10: Redbud:
Redbud trees, which can actually have white, pink, red, or purple flowers, are a staple showy spring treat in the garden, and although some can grow 20 to 30 feet tall, can be a good addition to a smaller yard or garden, especially with some careful pruning. Redbud seeds are good forage for wildlife, and redbuds are said to be an important source of nectar and pollen for honeybees and other pollinators. This fast-growing tree prefers well-drained soil and full sun to part shade, and because it’s in the pea family, can get some of its nitrogen from the air so that only light fertilization is necessary.

The local climate needs to be taken into consideration, as well as any specific space and height constraints, before getting too far down the rabbit hole of looking at tree catalogs and nursery stock. With hundreds thousands of choices of species and varieties available, there’s a tree or shrub for just about any location, and the best guidance can come from local gardeners, orchardists, and arborists, who have hands-on experience, rather than just buying what looks good on an impulse.

There’s a new study proving that there’s enough room on the earth for another trillion trees at least, and if he hurry and plant the right kinds in the right places, we can slow global warming a lot. In fact, when the trees are mature about 40 to 70 years from now, they will be able to reverse most of the damage we’ve done, pulling back a lot of the carbon now in the atmosphere. But we have to hurry, and we have to do it right! It will take many billions of dollars, but it’s still the cheapest and best way.

Depends on one’s perspective. I look at it as 1 person and 4,700 trees.
All we need is 637 other like minded individuals, or 319 at 9,400 trees

You have probably seen this wonderful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSTV-KcAd_0

One of the problems with tree-centric innovation, and with too much of agriculture and knowledge in general is the failures to (a) collaborate, (b) listen, and (c) learn and then (d) try.
In some areas an innovation goes viral almost the minute it proves itself (1970’s use of growth hormones to aid beer production). In other areas, e.g. vaccine, the knowledge is resisted for stupid (and sad) reasons.

In the agriculture section here is a new collaboration where I know some of the people on the Indian (ekutir) side. See: https://blooom.farm/

Several years ago I aided a bit in C. K. Mishra’s World Bank trip around Latin America explaining his ekitursb program helping tens of thousands of small farmers in India.
There was polite interest but nobody said “Oh boy, let’s try something like that here”.