Researchers at Lund University and Stockholm University in Sweden discovered that spruces, pines, and firs are exceptionally adept at absorbing methane, a greenhouse gas that’s about 25 times more harmful as carbon dioxide. Previous studies speculated that these types of trees actually emitted methane, but this study suggests that trees might be rising to the challenge, actually sucking methane out of the atmosphere in addition to carbon dioxide. If accurate, the study makes yet another case for protecting existing forests, planting more spruce, pines, and firs, and not cutting them down for use as Christmas trees!Coniferous forest photo from Shutterstock
Previous studies measuring with atmospheric methane levels suggested that so-called hotspots were actually disappearing. These studies speculated that this could be because of reduced fossil fuel usage (um, not likely), or fewer microbes making methane in the Northern hemisphere. The current research, led by Elin Sundqvist and colleagues, offers a third explanation: christmas trees could be actively soaking up methane.
The researchers reached this conclusion after conducting controlled forest and laboratory measurements and analysis of the gases being exchanged by tree branches of pine, spruce and birch trees under a variety of conditions. “Our results offer a third explanation: that an increasing amount of CH4 has been taken up by vegetation during the last decades as a consequence of increased greenness,” states Sundqvist in the study. In other words, trees are working harder to absorb more methane from the atmosphere.
Of course, cut Christmas trees are only barely alive, so their methane sucking days are numbered. Living trees are the real heroes, doing their best to offset the vast amount of harmful pollution we send up into the atmosphere on a daily basis. It’s yet another reason to consider a truly living tree that can be planted in the yard to continue the good work once the holidays are through.
Via Discovery News