(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a mater of concern for all of humanity. There is an international effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but there is one process that actually works in the reverse direction (along with carbon sequestration by the oceans) – the process of photosynthesis in trees that stores carbon while releasing oxygen into the atmosphere.
A long-term study of Yatir Forest carried out by Prof. Dan Yakir and his team from the Weizmann Institute of Science has provided surprising results. It turns out that this KKL-JNF coniferous forest on the edge of the desert, which grows in extreme climate conditions, sequesters oxygen to the same degree as European forests.
Data on the Yatir Forest: The trees reach an average height of 10 meters, the density is approximately 30 trees per dunam (quarter acre), while the precipitation consists of an average of only 285 mm. of rainfall per year.
The forest’s productivity in terms of carbon sequestration:
• About 230 kg. of carbon per quarter acre per year (i.e. about 7.7 kg. of carbon per tree per year).
• Over a period of 70–100 years (which is the estimated life extent of deciduous trees), each tree stores around 500–800 kg. of carbon.
In comparison, pine forests in Europe sequester 200 kg. of carbon per quarter acre each year. The average sequestration of most pine forests in the world is 250 kg. of carbon per quarter acre per year.
How does the Yatir Forest function so well and sequester carbon in its hot, dry conditions?
1. The trees use less energy for respiration than is needed for photosynthesis.
2. Its biological activity (carbon sequestration) starts early in the spring, enabling a long activity season, similar to European forests.
These factors lead to higher efficiency in the carbon utilization process.
Also worth noting:
• Side by side with the Yatir Forest’s surprising efficiency in carbon sequestration, its dark foliage causes it to become somewhat hotter than its paler edge-of-the desert environment. Although this warming process works in the opposite direction, it does not negate the high degree of carbon sequestration.
• At the present time, KKL-JNF and the researchers are preparing to expand their research and measurements to forests in the Mediterranean regions of Israel.
Other Ecological and Social Values of the Forest
Alongside the forest’s important and unique value in terms of carbon sequestration, it has other important values. The following is what one tree accomplishes:
• Filters and purifies about 100,000 cubic meters of air every year.
• Absorbs approximately 20 kg. of dust per year.
• “Swallows” 80 kg. of compounds containing polluting particles in a year
• Produces around 700 kg. of oxygen annually.
• Increases rainwater penetration into the soil and prevents erosion from taking place.
• Helps lower the temperature in its surroundings in the summer by up to 4 degrees.
• Reduces noise pollution in its vicinity.
• May serve as a home for dozens for birds.
• May reduce the effect of earthquakes.
• Raises the value of nearby properties.
• Adds beauty to the environment.
Economics-based research studies have shown that in Israel’s high-density, urban environment, the forest’s recreation value, when calculated in a cautious manner that only takes into account the price that country’s residents have to pay to get to the forest, covers the cost of establishing and tending the forest over the years. Obviously, this profit does not appear in any official cash flow record, but it is expressed in the forest’s social value when it is enjoyed for leisure purposes by all who visit it.
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