Should We Be Planting More Trees?

  • #1
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A very popular activity here in Australia is the planting of trees for all sorts of reasons.

I am a huge supporter in order to offset the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

But an article in Scientific American thinks it is critical to remove CO2:
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/carbon-removal-is-catching-on-but-it-needs-to-go-faster/

It may be behind a paywall (because I am a subscriber I can't tell) but it is based, at least in part, on the following paper:
https://www.stateofcdr.org/

What do people think? It is one of those win-win sort of things. People, at least here in Aus, love forests with easily accessible areas for barbecues, picnics etc especially if there is a little creek, steam or pond to play in. Many memories from my childhood.

We are doing a lot of it here in Aus. Should we be doing more worldwide?

Thanks
Bill
 
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  • #2
In general I am very much in favor of this.
I suppose there might be particular cases where it might cause problems, but mostly not.

Swamp and wetlands are also good.
Beavers building dams is a god example of this. They can transform a dry landscape into a lush verdant oases that can supports lots of other plants and animals.

Don't think there are beavers in Australia. Too bad. They store water like trees store carbon.
 
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  • #3
Yes, but we must do it in a way that does not increase the risk of wildfires, and we must avoid monoculture plantations, where the trees all have the same age.

Trees moderate soil and surface temperatures. Without trees or shrubs, the productive organic part of the soil is lost, it becomes a desert.
 
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  • #4
Baluncore said:
Trees moderate soil and surface temperatures. Without trees or shrubs, the productive organic part of the soil is lost, it becomes a desert.

As we know only too well in Australia.

Thanks
Bill
 
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  • #5
I'm a fan too, but unfortunately today it is popular to declare biomass to be carbon neutral, so it doesn't matter how fast you burn-down forests. Over the extremely long-term it is carbon neutral(once all the trees are gone or we reach a stable amount), so the question is: how much storage is there in forests? Here's a link with some math:
https://climate.mit.edu/ask-mit/how-many-new-trees-would-we-need-offset-our-carbon-emissions

It says a forest the size of New Mexico would store the USA's annual carbon emissions. A separate google tells me we're deforesting the planet at a rate of a third of that per year.

Put another way: if deforestation were a country it would be the 4th largest carbon emitter. Reversing that would be nice.
 
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  • #6
Biomass is a dynamic storage.
The rates going in and out of it can balance out to a plus or minus.
There is also biomass that is no longer alive, like oil, peat, and similar stuff.
Its when this stuff gets into the atmosphere the climate gets affected.

Rapidly growing forests sequester carbon.
Building house of wood sequesters carbon from dead biomass.
This would be a benefit of rapidly growing forests that get harvested for building.

Standing biomass holds carbon for a while. Its a dynamic storage.
 
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  • #7
bhobba said:
What do people think?
I think instead of a dumb forestation it should be the restoration of the natural vegetation, with just a slight bias for trees where it's viable, or made to be viable by artificial means.

Please mind that it's an ongoing study which is not aligned with the mainstream 'green': link
Maybe the references there can be of use.
 
  • #8
Another way to think about all that happens to the carbon and biomass is to think about the carbon cycle which actually a whole bunch of different cycles interconnecting different sources and sinks:

Screenshot 2024-06-12 at 7.53.16 AM.png
 
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  • #10
Thread closed temporarily for Mentor review and possible cleanup...
 
  • #11
A post violating our Global Warming rules has been deleted, along with a couple well-meaning replies to it. Thread is reopened provisionally.
 
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  • #12
Baluncore said:
Yes, but we must do it in a way that does not increase the risk of wildfires, and we must avoid monoculture plantations, where the trees all have the same age.
According to my ex, a Ph.D in edaphology, monoculture refers to having only one species of plant in an area. This is dangerous as it increases the chance of a botanical epidemic that wipes out all of the plants. I'm sure, though, not having them all the same age would help as well when one considers elms and such.
 
  • #13
ShadowKraz said:
I'm sure, though, not having them all the same age would help as well when one considers elms and such.
Newly established plantations have enormous water requirements, so the soil becomes very dry, and the plantation is a fire hazard that will burn the organic material from the soil. If the soil can remain cool and moist, shaded from wind and sun, then the next generation will grow where and when there is an opening for that species.
 
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  • #14
Baluncore said:
Newly established plantations have enormous water requirements, so the soil becomes very dry, and the plantation is a fire hazard that will burn the organic material from the soil. If the soil can remain cool and moist, shaded from wind and sun, then the next generation will grow where and when there is an opening for that species.
This is too funny; I texted my ex (we're on friendly-ish terms) about this and she replied more or less the exact same thing. Always nice to know she hasn't forgotten anything as it's been years since she's worked in the field.
 
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  • #15
I co-authored a two papers on energy balances of arid ecosystems (the effect of large scale solar farming and its effect on the local energy balance), and in the process had access to a few very large datasets generated by eddy covariant weather towers.

Trees are super important to have for multiple reasons, yes their carbon storage, but also their cooling. The soil is a massive thermal reservoirs and trees mute this effect in multiple different ways. Shade, carbon sequestration, aeration, etc. But more importantly trees are master evapotranspiration factories. They're basically massive swamp coolers (however, often grasses are more vigorously evapotranspiring so it is important to plant native species).

Not only has carbon dioxide increase by almost double since the Industrial Revolution, but the amount of wilderness area has gone from over 90% of the earth's surface to below 20%, and those are numbers from 2017 iirc. It has probably gone down since than.

The heat of vaporization of water is 40.66 kJ/mol so it has a very important role in regulating the warming caused by carbon dioxide, which has a heat capacity of about 0.8 kJ/mol. It even says on the climate change wikipedia, "Deforestation is the main land use change contributor to global warming,[139] as the destroyed trees release CO2, and are not replaced by new trees, removing that carbon sink.[32] " Source:https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/4/2019/12/02_Summary-for-Policymakers_SPM.pdf

Also, depending on the ecosystem, you need trees to burn. For one, a lot of species have seeds that can only germinate if there is fire. These are arid ecosystems with have no water, so seeds need to able to survive for a long time and stay protected. Fires normally cause rain because of particulate matter. Additionally, because of the lack of water, in arid ecosystems fire is how carbon cycles and are a crucial part of the ecosystems. The reason why the US is burning so bad the past few decades is mostly cause of Eucalyptus trees that Woodrow Wilson's wife brought from Australia cause they looked so pretty. Redwoods adapted with fire, they don't really burn, its why they grow so high. Invasive species have the potential to wreak havoc so always be careful with stuff like that.
 
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  • #16
Here's the thing though, I don't think there's a single substance that doesn't act as a black body radiator in the IR spectrum, is there?
 
  • #17
paradoxlost said:
Here's the thing though, I don't think there's a single substance that doesn't act as a black body radiator in the IR spectrum, is there?
Dry air.
The reflective face of a mirror.
 
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  • #18
are you sure about that?

you ever left a mirror outside in the sun, and than touched it. they can get hot. unless you mean a theoretical mirror that doesn't exist.

without getting too crazy..
https://phys.libretexts.org/Bookshe...ns_and_Matter_Waves/6.02:_Blackbody_Radiation

"All bodies emit electromagnetic radiation over a range of wavelengths."

"Although the blackbody is an idealization, because no physical object absorbs 100% of incident radiation"

This includes oxygen gas, nitrogen gas, etc. Same with a mirror.

Their relative amounts may seem negligible, but that's not the point I was making.

https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/163876/thermal-radiation-of-a-nitrogen-sphere#163887

this is actually a good post that has a graph and how it was generated in one of the replies.
 
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  • #19
paradoxlost said:
you ever left a mirror outside in the sun, and than touched it. they can get hot. unless you mean a theoretical mirror that doesn't exist.
It depends on the glass and thickness of glass. If one has a high reflective surface, but a thin layer of covering (for protection from the environment), it doesn't get as hot as a similar system with a thicker layer of glass covering the reflective surface, especially one that absorbs in visible to IR.

I can vouch for the cooling effect of trees based on observations in my backyard. Shaded area under a maple tree is much cooler than out in the sun. I've been thinking of setting up some thermometers/thermcouples to measure the temperature difference/profile (ground and air) from the trunk of the maple tree out to the edge of the tree.
 
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  • #20
A black body is an approximation. At some level, everything is a black body. At another, nothing is.
 
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  • #21
Astronuc said:
It depends on the glass and thickness of glass. If one has a high reflective surface, but a thin layer of covering (for protection from the environment), it doesn't get as hot as a similar system with a thicker layer of glass covering the reflective surface, especially one that absorbs in visible to IR.

I can vouch for the cooling effect of trees based on observations in my backyard. Shaded area under a maple tree is much cooler than out in the sun. I've been thinking of setting up some thermometers/thermcouples to measure the temperature difference/profile (ground and air) from the trunk of the maple tree out to the edge of the tree.

high reflection isn't complete reflection though, and it's like ok, its negligible, but at a certain scale or lacking a certain mediator, it isn't. Everything gets hot and nothing completely absorbs radiation. I remember the first time I saw a metamaterial that is the "blackest" material they've ever made. 93% black. Nothing is perfect. You think they wouldn't be doing something at a scale where it would matter.

But they're building a 60,000 acre solar farm north of Las Vegas. Gemini Project. That type of scale of solar farming is going to lead to a regional warming effect. We found that the bottom of solar panels were 15C warmer than the top, on average. This led to a 'heat island' effect that seemed to actual reduce rainfall when you had weather systems pass over top of it (not the 60,000 acre one, we were studying a 6000 acre one). It heats the air ever so much where one panel its like, who cares, but then you have a massive tract of them.

Additionally they have those salt tower tank power generators that have mirrors taht direct sunlight at a salt tank that holds the thermal energy in. I forget what those mirrors were at temp, but they get hot.

Now that I think about it, if something didn't radiate IR radiation at all, would you be able to touch it? Wouldn't it be absolute zero?


But Raspberry Pi has some really good hardware for environmental monitoring. Look into Bowen ratios, eddy covariance, and the book Boundary Climate and Atmosphere by Oke.
 
  • #22
paradoxlost said:
Now that I think about it, if something didn't radiate IR radiation at all, would you be able to touch it? Wouldn't it be absolute zero?
Please don't post nonsense here at PF. Thanks.
 
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  • #24
Astronuc said:
I can vouch for the cooling effect of trees based on observations in my backyard. Shaded area under a maple tree is much cooler than out in the sun. I've been thinking of setting up some thermometers/thermcouples to measure the temperature difference/profile (ground and air) from the trunk of the maple tree out to the edge of the tree.
Been there, done that; grass type (fescue, zoysia, bermuda....) and sun angle throughout the day make for a very "mixed" data set.
 
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  • #25
paradoxlost said:
I remember the first time I saw a metamaterial that is the "blackest" material they've ever made. 93% black. Nothing is perfect.
Wikipedia wrote: "As of September 2019, the darkest material is made from vertically aligned carbon nanotubes. The material was grown by MIT engineers and was reported to have a 99.995% absorption rate of any incoming light. This surpasses any former darkest materials including Vantablack, which has a peak absorption rate of 99.965% in the visible spectrum."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black#Physics
 
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  • #26
Baluncore said:
Wikipedia wrote: "As of September 2019, the darkest material is made from vertically aligned carbon nanotubes. The material was grown by MIT engineers and was reported to have a 99.995% absorption rate of any incoming light. This surpasses any former darkest materials including Vantablack, which has a peak absorption rate of 99.965% in the visible spectrum."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black#Physics


exactly my point is, nothing is perfect
 
  • #27
paradoxlost said:
exactly my point is, nothing is perfect
That goes without saying.
Close enough is good enough, perfection is the enemy of progress.

We must work now, with what is available, the third best. The second best will arrive too late. The best is perfect, and impossible.

Now is the best time to protect and plant more trees.
Yesterday would have been better, so you need to work twice as hard today, or three times harder tomorrow.
 
  • #28
Baluncore said:
That goes without saying.
Close enough is good enough, perfection is the enemy of progress.

We must work now, with what is available, the third best. The second best will arrive too late. The best is perfect, and impossible.

Now is the best time to protect and plant more trees.
Yesterday would have been better, so you need to work twice as hard today, or three times harder tomorrow.

Of course, but isn't that saying more appropriate for engineering, not so much theory?

And of course, I am a conservationist at heart. I have spent countless hours in wilderness areas and would like to spend more time there. One of the flaws I feel like with academics, at least environmental sciences, is they spend to much time trying to get grant money and not enough time actually interacting with the thing that inspired them to get into that field to begin with. Precious few scientists spend over 50% of the year outside.
 
  • #29
paradoxlost said:
Of course, but isn't that saying more appropriate for engineering, not so much theory?
No. In the real world, measurements and modelling of the natural environment can never be perfect. Scientists and engineers interpret the term "theory" differently.
paradoxlost said:
One of the flaws I feel like with academics, at least environmental sciences, is they spend to much time trying to get grant money and not enough time actually interacting with the thing that inspired them to get into that field to begin with.
Don't blame the academics for the difficulty of getting funding. They are the victim, not the perpetrator.
paradoxlost said:
Precious few scientists spend over 50% of the year outside.
When your task is processing satellite images, you do not need to work outside for longer than it takes to gather the ground truth.

There is no point being angry at the system, if you never do anything but complain. You are wasting your life, and I am wasting mine by replying.
 
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  • #30
Baluncore said:
No. In the real world, measurements and modelling of the natural environment can never be perfect. Scientists and engineers interpret the term "theory" differently.

Don't blame the academics for the difficulty of getting funding. They are the victim, not the perpetrator.

When your task is processing satellite images, you do not need to work outside for longer than it takes to gather the ground truth.

There is no point being angry at the system, if you never do anything but complain. You are wasting your life, and I am wasting mine by replying.

I think you misinterpret what I am saying. 200 years ago someone using Einstein's equations instead of Newton's may be accused of "perfection is the enemy of progress" but eventually comes a time when the granularity of such a perspective is necessary. For instance, the warming effect of a solar panel could be considered negligible for one panel, or perhaps a dozen, but not for 100 acres of them together. Another good example is, when people throw out plastic water bottles, there are on average 14-50 drops of water left in them. For one bottle, its like whatever, but considering the scale of bottled water consumption, water trapped in plastic bottles is one of the largest freshwater reserves on this planet.

But I am well aware the inability of environmental modeling to come close to being able to replicate the outside world. For instance, horizontal air flow is still unable to be modeled accurately.

I'm not blaming the academics for their circumstances, and I don't think I did in that post either. It is a flaw nonetheless, and a trope at that as well.

Is stating facts complaining? Identifying points of potential improvement complaining? I think it would be considered fundamental that if you are say, a hydrologist, and you've never gone out to the woods to see a very bad storm overflow a flood bank, or wake up in the morning in a ravine and feel the air thermals mixing, your concept of the complexity would be flawed, no? If my statements bring up feelings of learned helplessness in you, that is not my fault.
 
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  • #31
paradoxlost said:
If my statements bring up feelings of learned helplessness in you, that is not my fault.
Your statements do not.
I can only assume you are psychologically projecting.
 
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  • #32
Baluncore said:
Your statements do not.
I can only assume you are psychologically projecting.

based on me wanting to address things that are, by your statements, out of my control. makes sense.
 
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  • #33
berkeman said:
Please don't post nonsense here at PF. Thanks.

if you took an infrared thermometer and measured the temp of the table your computer is in, it would be over 0 Kelvin I assume. If it is above that temperature, the part of its emission spectra that makes it not 0 Kelvin would be in the infrared spectrum.

the part that makes it whatever color you see it as, that's in the visible spectrum.
 
  • #34
paradoxlost said:
if you took an infrared thermometer and measured the temp of the table your computer is in, it would be over 0 Kelvin I assume. If it is above that temperature, the part of its emission spectra that makes it not 0 Kelvin would be in the infrared spectrum.

the part that makes it whatever color you see it as, that's in the visible spectrum.
So much of your comments are irrelevant to the issue of planting trees.
I am negatively impressed.
You should make your own thread of digressions.
 
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  • #35
BillTre said:
So much of your comments are irrelevant to the issue of planting trees.
I am negatively impressed.
You should make your own thread of digressions.
I think you misunderstand the purpose of the thread. It wasn't about growing trees, it was about growing trees to address a problem, which the majority of my comments are relative too.

The irony is your post is also, not about growing trees.
 
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