Trees found in Europe have increased global warming, a new study finds. An international team of researchers have shown that in spite of afforestation and forest managements to slow down global warming by removing CO2 from the atmosphere, planting the wrong type of trees may actually exacerbate it.
Led by the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement – Institut Pierre Simon Laplace (LSCE/IPSL) in France in collaboration with researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M), the study states that light-coloured broad-leavened species, such as oak and birch, have been replaced by darker-coloured conifers, such as pines and spruce. The conifers are darker and absorbs and retains more heat, increasing the surface temperatures by 0.12 degrees Celsius.
The research team reconstructed European land use and forest management in the past 260 years and calculated that nearly 85 percent of trees were managed by humans. Foresters have planted more trees that absorb more heat mainly due for commercial purposes.
By choosing commercially valuable tree species, forestation has contributed to climate change instead of alleviating it. Apart from this, extracting wood from forests untouched by humans and using these forests for commercial purposes have also released trapped carbon into the atmosphere. The carbon has been stored in the biomass, dead wood, litter and soil of the forests.
Additionally, lead author Kim Naudts from the Max Planck Institute says that even forests that are well-managed today are not as effective in storing carbon than the trees in 1750. Apparently, the trees absorb 3.1 billion tonnes less CO2 than they used to do, Scientific American notes.
“Our results show that not all forest management contributed to climate change mitigation,” Naudts concludes. “The key question is now: can we design a forest management strategy that cools the climate and at the same time sustains wood production and other ecosystem services?”