Get smart curated videos delivered to your inbox.   SUBSCRIBE
The Kid Should See This

Planting trees vs protecting old forests: Which stores more carbon right now?

Watch more with these video collections:

“For decades we’ve been planting trees in hopes of reducing carbon pollution. But when it comes to carbon sequestration, have we actually been getting it all backward?”

To more effectively fight climate change, climate scientist Dr Beverly Law recommends protecting the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest, up through Southeast Alaska and Tongass National Forest.

“Let them grow. Set them aside as carbon reserves. I call it strategic carbon reserves,” she explains. Why?

carbon monitoring station
Law put carbon monitoring stations in a mature forest and a young forest to compare them. From the measurements, she discovered that young forests aren’t taking up as much carbon as mature forests. In fact, young forests are emitting more carbon than they can absorb. Maiya May, host of PBS Terra’s Weathered series, explains:

“There’s nothing wrong with young forests. Eventually, after 10 to 20 years, newly planted forests will become carbon sinks. But the problem is we don’t have 20 years to address climate change. Planting trees now might help in the long run, but those old forests are really the key to storing carbon before we hit tipping points for climate change.”

carbon absorption vs release
And from Law’s article in The Conversation:

“Forests pull about one-third of all human-caused carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere each year. Researchers have calculated that ending deforestation and allowing mature forests to keep growing could enable forests to take up twice as much carbon.”

talking in a mature forest
Read more about Dr Beverly Law’s groundbreaking research on the global carbon cycle: Keeping trees in the ground where they are already growing is an effective low-tech way to slow climate change.

Plus, more about climate change and carbon storage:
Why does this scientist shoot lasers at trees?
• How can nature be used as a tool to restore ecosystems?
Why are peatlands so important?
• The power of seaweed: How can kelp help capture carbon?
• Why are mangrove trees so important?
How do bison help fight against climate change?

This Webby award-winning video collection exists to help teachers, librarians, and families spark kid wonder and curiosity. TKSST features smarter, more meaningful content than what's usually served up by YouTube's algorithms, and amplifies the creators who make that content.

Curated, kid-friendly, independently-published. Support this mission by becoming a sustaining member today.