Monday, July 4, 2011

Name That Amount of Carbon in....One Tree!

If you are like me and you sit around each day pondering "how do they know how many trees it takes to store 1 ton of carbon?," then today is your lucky day. The folks over at Ecometrica have released a sort of "tree carbon storage for dummies" paper that depicts in a rather straightforward fashion the makeup of a tree that stores 1 ton of carbon.

Ultimately, the amount of carbon stored by a tree depends upon the species, size, local conditions and how the tree is managed.  First the size of the stem is measured, including its radius and height. That measurement is then converted into a number representing the stem biomass. From this, the mass of the roots, branches, and leaves can be determined by proportionality depending on the species. So, for a sycamore tree the roots, branches, and leaves are are about 26%, 11%, and 1% of the total biomass respectively.  Then, we know that the carbon content of woody material is about 50% of its biomass....and voila! We can now estimate the amount of carbon stored in a tree! Now I can go back to pondering daily how a cassette player works.

- Blake Hudson

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