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How trees can help reduce climate change

Trees store carbon

While they are growing, trees use sunlight to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and store it as carbon in the form of wood.

Photosynthesis diagram

One of the practical ways to combat climate change is to plant more trees in order to take more carbon out of the atmosphere (as long as the trees are planted in the right place).

Younger trees absorb carbon dioxide quickly while they are growing, but as a tree ages a steady state is eventually reached, and at this point the amount of carbon absorbed through photosynthesis is similar to that lost through respiration and decay. If trees are harvested carefully near this time in the growth cycle, and new trees are planted or allowed to regenerate, then this can keep the forest as a net “sink” of carbon. Therefore careful woodland management can mean that woodlands are able to take up the maximum amount of carbon possible.

Where does the carbon go diagram

In 2010 the report “Combating climate change: a role for UK forests” (the “Read Report”) was published. This independent assessment was commissioned by the Forestry Commission to examine the potential of the UK’s trees and woodlands to mitigate and adapt to our changing climate. Go to “related pages” for more information.

Last updated: 31st January 2018