One mature pine tree produces as much oxygen in a day as three people need to live. Oxygen is a side effect of photosynthesis. For this side effect to be possible at all, our pine tree absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. And while it gives some of it back to the atmosphere, it stores the rest of the CO2, converting it into organic carbon accumulated in the wood, bark, and roots. This way, our friend is doing us a huge favour!
After all, it absorbs what we want to get rid of ourselves. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change points out, the most productive European forests sequester carbon at a rate of around 9 tonnes of CO2 per hectare per year. However, the intensity of CO2 uptake by forests depends on, among other things, the species and age of the trees, the type of soil and ground cover, as well as the climatic conditions. State Forests’ data indicates that 1 hectare of our local forests absorbs an average of 4-5 tonnes of CO2 per year. Hence, in total, we are talking about 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide captured each year and 1 billion tonnes of carbon stored to date.
These are big figures. However, they are still too small to solve the problem of limiting people’s greenhouse gas emissions. Remember that Poland emits over 300 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. Annually, our forests absorb the equivalent of emissions produced in 1.5 months from coal, oil, and gas. One might ask: wouldn’t it be reasonable to enlarge our circle of friends?
As with friends – it’s not about quantity, but quality. Only the healthy trees of the right age absorb more CO2 than they emit. Our friends need to be strong to help us. This means that trees planted today need at least 60 years to become green absorbers. Some of them may not live to that age at all, for various reasons – including animal activity or fire.
This is why, alongside reforestation, we should also look after those trees that are already growing and gaining strength to help us! And not just in parks or forests, in the city too! We can observe the condition of trees in our immediate vicinity, and ask our local council for details on tree care. If there is no additional tree watering planned during warm and dry periods, it’s worth contacting your neighbours. Looking after the trees in your neighbourhood together can be a great starting point for local integration!
If we look after the trees, the trees will look after us. Let’s also remember about reducing our CO2 emissions! Together we can ensure that less carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere and that we do not need that much of the trees’ help. Let’s be good friends to them.