Trees are our known allies in the battle against harmful climate change, but it turns out California redwood trees may be the most helpful. Researchers conducted a seven-year long study to find redwood forests capture and store more carbon per acre than all other forests. Their findings could have implications for how the state determines which forests can be logged.

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Researchers led by Robert Van Pelt of Humboldt State University selected 11 “old-growth forests” between Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in the north of the state and Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve just south of Big Sur. Scientists from the University of Washington and Save the Redwoods contributed to the research, which was published online in June in the journal Forest Ecology and Management.

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The researchers measured biomass in the 11 forests and also tested samples in a UC Berkeley elemental analyzer machine to determine how much carbon was present. What the team discovered was astonishing. Notably, some Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park forests store “2,600 metric tons of carbon per hectare.” Pacific Northwest conifer forests and Australian and Tasmanian eucalyptus forests only store about 1,000 metric tons.

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Why do the redwoods tower above other trees when it comes to carbon storage? First off, they can survive extreme events: they’re “virtually fireproof” and if wind snaps off their tops, the redwoods live on. Plus, they live for a very long time anyway: over 1,000 years. Once they eventually die, their heartwood – where they store around two-thirds of their carbon – continues to store that carbon for “hundreds of years.”

Such findings could be beneficial for officials who will determine where to log or how to best preserve the redwood trees. Van Pelt told The Mercury News, “The carbon part of a redwood may be more important than the lumber part in the coming decades.”

Via The Mercury News

Images via Benson Kua on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons