We have been encouraged to plant trees as a way of offsetting carbon emissions. But when it comes to climate change, some species of trees are considerably worse than others. That’s the finding of new research led by Dr Kim Naudts at the Laboratory of Climate Science and Environment in Gif-sur-Yvette, France:
“Two and a half centuries of forest management in Europe have not cooled the climate. The political imperative to mitigate climate change through afforestation and forest management therefore risks failure, unless it is recognized that not all forestry contributes to climate change mitigation.”
Fast-growing conifers of the kind employed for timber present a particular problem according to the report:
“Even well managed forests today store less carbon than their natural counterparts in 1750. Our results indicate that in large parts of Europe, a tree planting programme would offset the emissions but it would not cool the planet, especially not if the afforestation is done with conifers.”
The report concludes that reforesting with the wrong species of trees across Europe and Asia has added the equivalent of six percent of the warming attributed to burning fossil carbon.