Which Tree is the Biggest Carbon Sink?

Which Tree is the Biggest Carbon Sink?

Jonathan B.
Jan 10, 2008

What kind of tree should you plant if your goal is to sequester the most carbon? One that grows quickly, says Brendan I. Koerner, who writes The Green Lantern over at Slate.

Good bets include the Laurel Oak, pictured above. Five other hardwoods are listed as excellent choices.

Yellow poplars, scarlet oaks, London planes, American sweetgums, and European beech are all good at grabbing carbon out of the atmosphere. Koerner cites a New York City survey that found the Yellow poplar can sequester 137.26 pounds of carbon a year -- nearly double what the Laurel Oak, pictured above, can handle. An important caveat: if the tree dies and decomposes, all that carbon goes right back into the atmosphere; but turn that dead tree into furniture or lumber, and the carbon will stay locked up.

So can we plant our way to neutral carbon emissions? Perhaps, if we get really serious about planting trees, but we've got a lot of work to do: each mile travelled in a average car emits around one pound of carbon. And heating your house, your water, and cooking food also typically results in carbon emissions.

image via City of Huntersville zoning website

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