Old Trees Trap Carbon Too

12-01-2008 // Hannah Schardt

BASED ON ONE study from the 1960s, many scientists have long believed that old-growth forests may do little to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Young, rapidly growing forests were considered more effective carbon sinks and thus more valuable in the fight against global warming. But a new analysis of 519 different forest plot studies disproves the conventional wisdom: In nearly all forests between 15 and 800 years old, more carbon dioxide is absorbed than released. "The current data now makes it clear that carbon accumulation can continue in forests that are centuries old," says Oregon State University forest scientist Beverly Law. To read about carbon sequestration in tropical forests, see "Saving the Forests for the Trees."

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