Carbon Sequestration in Trees Person of the Planet Article by Mary T. Hess

Our planet is unique, insofar as we can know, and it can boast the best carbon processing plants, literally. Trees sequester carbon efficiently and gracefully providing us a neat solution to the most pressing problem we have brought upon ourselves, climate change. Trees photosynthesize carbon captured from the air into the sugars and cellulose that allow them to thrive.They become essentially carbon storage units, releasing a greater amount of oxygen into the air as they grow, compared to the amount of carbon released during their eventual decay.

As People of the Planet we are looking for ways to make a positive difference on our Mother Earth. What better way during the Holiday Season than to reconsider our symbols of Christmas. I have a personal account I’d like to share. The annual quest for the perfect Christmas tree was eagerly anticipated by my brothers and me during our growing up years. We grew up on 40 acres in Lake County of which a large percentage was chaparral, and about 10 acres mixed coniferous forest. On the day of the Christmas Tree hunt, my dad, shouldering a shovel, headed down the path into our woods. My siblings and I danced ahead with my mother not far behind, one of us carryinga 5-gallon bucket. Reaching the forest, we each fanned out in the search for the prettiest tree we could find. There were a few caveats which we all knew. The tree had to be a Douglas fir, and it couldn’t be one most likely to become a fine specimen to live its life out in the woods. It could only be approximately six feet tall because it was going to be dug up and potted live, so that we could replant it in early January. The quest generally took about two hours and involved much discussion, some arguing, and finally a consensus. Dad or one of my brothers would dig up the tree, and deposit it in the bucket. Although our living room was kept warm by a wood stove, we watered the fir as the days went by so that it didn’t dry out. After the Feast of the Three Kings, we would troop outside to find the best location for our beautiful tree. Two of these past Christmas trees became stunning specimens on the edge of our hill shading the house from the southern sun.

On September 12, 2015, our family property was devastated by the Valley Fire. The house was lost and much of our land was burned over, swept by horizontal flames which denuded the slopes of chaparral and toasted most of the trees. The two beautiful Christmas firs that had grown to 50-foot beauties near the house were torched. A few pines and firs further from the house did survive and are struggling to maintain themselves. However, many of the black oaks began to leaf out the following spring and now appear to be determined to shade the hill once again.Our woods were lightly touched by the fire, and though altered, are still a quiet haven for the birds, deer, and squirrels.        

This Christmas, however, we didn’t get our tree from the few left in our woods. We bought it live in a pot at a nursery near home. It’s is a lovely spruce, one of several kinds of conifers available for planting, and it now stands happily in our orchard. We put a handful of fertilizer called Triple Sixteen in the bottom of the large hole we had dug and lowered it into its new home. There have been years in my adult life when I have bought a tree from a lot, andI would feel a twinge of regret, remembering the beloved story,The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Anderson. My conscience was tugged each time at the purchase of a lovely tree, now dead, for all practical purposes. After the Valley Fire, a movement began encouraging people to buy a potted tree from specified nurseries in Lake, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties.The trees could be returned after the holidays to the same nurseries or distribution locations central to the community. Residents who had lost their homes and trees in the wildfires could collect these conifers for replanting.The recent fires of 2017 emphasize the need for all of us to take to heart the importance of planting trees. If you have no location to replant the tree, consider contacting a friend or regional park who can give it a new home. What a creative way to “recycle” a Christmas tree!

Below is one of many websites where you can learn about the amazing power of trees in the sequestration of carbon.