How tree plantations effectively contribute to carbon sequestration efforts
Learn all about the powerful ways carbon sequestration can be achieved in planted forests through the trees and soils
With the area of tree plantations (also called forest plantations or planted forests) increasing by 55.8 million hectares (ha) globally between 1990 and 2020, these types of forests have been increasingly relied upon for the preservation of the environment, soil, and air. 
One of the more recent studies that aggregates maps of tree plantations worldwide found that the United States was among one of four countries that accounts for half of all tree plantation areas globally. 
Depending on the type of sapling being grown, there are a number of different benefits offered by these planted (as opposed to naturally occurring) forests with the intention of adding value to the land and, most importantly, helping to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Keep reading to learn about the contribution of planted forests in the reduction of carbon emissions around the world.
How do forest plantations sequester carbon?
By capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) in their biomass and soils, growing forests have been utilized as an effective way to counteract the harmful effects of GHGs in the atmosphere. Soils can sequester more carbon than both plants and the atmosphere combined, which is why forest plantations can have a significant impact on the strength of the forest carbon sink. 
The process of carbon sequestration by soils is shown to be more effective thanks to the soil’s capacity to be the main temporary reservoir of it in the environment. Carbon storage is an activity that depends not only on the organic matter present in soils, but also on the climate, the geological material of the area, and the type of handling of that land, so proper forest management is required to reap the full benefits.
What benefits does carbon sequestration offer?
Thanks to the capacity of soil to store CO2, the land directed towards planted forests can act as methane sinkholes or natural deposits that capture and absorb carbon with the goal of reducing its presence in the atmosphere. This occurs because the soil has methanotrophic bacteria that consumes the methane and assists in the mission to reduce CO2 in the air.
The absorption of the gas through carbon sequestration also offers the:
- Accumulation of carbon for a long time in products from planted forests
- Greater carbon balance in the atmosphere and soils
- Production of items, such as cellulose, that are efficient in carbon sequestration
- Reduced pressure for the extraction of wood from native forests
- Reduction in the emission of GHGs.
How do forest plantations help to neutralize GHG emissions?
Responsible for absorbing twice as much CO2 as they emit annually, planted forests can absorb about seven billion tons of the gas per year and are essential to achieving the neutralization of GHGs, especially carbon.  This happens because the carbon is taken from the environment and incorporated into the plant’s biomass.
With estimates stating the average American’s carbon footprint is 16 tons of CO2 annually and one mature tree will absorb nearly 50 pounds of CO2 per year, it would take 200 billion trees to make up for all emissions in the United States. [5,6]
Based on calculations like these, it is possible to predict the amount of trees needed to neutralize the GHG emissions and contribute to the mission of making this world increasingly greener.
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