The planet has room for about 2.5 billion acres of forest, and all those trees could suck up an additional 200 gigatons of carbon. While that wouldn’t solve climate change, it would be a huge hel

By Tik Root
We recently told you about a study that looked at how may more trees could grow on Earth and how much carbon they could absorb from the atmosphere. The answer: The planet has room for about 2.5 billion acres of forest, and all those trees could suck up an additional 200 gigatons of carbon. While that wouldn’t solve climate change, it would be a huge help.
That kind of reforestation would be a monumental global undertaking, but every single tree still counts. They all sequester carbon.
So, if you plant a tree, what kind should it be?
Peter Del Tredici, senior research scientist emeritus at the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University said that, for trees to sequester a lot of carbon, they need to live long and healthy lives. “You want a tree that is going to survive in your climate with the minimum amount of maintenance,” he said.
To have a meaningful effect, he said, a tree must live at least 10 to 20 years. “It takes that long for a tree to build up enough foliage so that it can have a substantial impact on the environment,” Dr. Del Tredici said.
With that in mind, oaks can be great in the Northeast, while ficus trees might work better in Southern California. In the Northwest, just about everything does well. Nonnative, noninvasive species like the ginkgo tree are good options, too.
Getting your tree to reach its full potential requires plenty of soil volume and ample room to grow, Dr. Del Tredici said. He discouraged fast-growing trees like poplars because they have a shorter life span. Medium-growth trees like pin oak are better from a carbon perspective.
Considering how climate change might shift conditions like temperature and water availability over time is also really important, said Emily Nobel Maxwell, the cities program director for The Nature Conservancy in New York.
Careful placement of a tree can bring additional climate benefits, she added, which could possibly be even more significant than carbon sequestration.
“There are ways to locate tees to maximize energy efficiency benefits,” Ms. Maxwell said. A tree that casts shade on your house in the summer or helps insulate in the winter can lower utility bills and, quite likely, carbon emissions. “You can strategically plant.”
The Arbor Day Foundation has a plenty of tools — like a best-tree finder and a hardiness zone look-up — to help identify the right tree for the right place. The Department of Agriculture’s I-Tree lets you design your optimal tree placement. Another useful exercise is simply to walk around an arboretum or botanical garden to get a sense of what you like. A nursery can be a great resource as well.
But both Dr. Del Tredici and Ms. Maxwell pointed out that putting the tree in the ground is only the first step in a decades-long process. “As important as planting a tree,” Ms. Maxwell said, “is taking care of a tree.”

Posted, but not written by, Louis Sheehan

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