Not all trees support climate change, some make it worse

From Daily News

Everything you know about climate change is wrong.

Trees — long assumed to help limit the ugly effects of climate change — may actually speed up global warming rates, according to a new study.

A team of French-led scientists claim Europe has been planting the wrong kind of trees during its reforestation efforts since 1750, and in the process has made climate change worse — not better. The theory is at odds with a widespread view that planting more trees helps human efforts to slow rising temperatures.

While Europe’s forest area has grown by 10% in the past 250 years, its average temperatures have increased by 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

So what gives?

The researchers believe that expanding forests, once lush with broadleaf species like oak and birch, with types of conifers like pine and spruce, have made the continent warmer, not cooler. While the broadleaf trees reflect sunlight, dark conifers absorb heat.

“Two and a half centuries of forest management in Europe have not cooled the climate,” the scientists wrote in a report released Friday.

Europe’s forests oak- and birch-heavy forests thinned between 1750 and 1850, BBC News reported. Foresters eager to replace the lost greenery often opted to plant conifers, which grow faster and can be used for everything from building materials to pulp.

The team, led by France’s Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, said the changes in the makeup of Europe’s forests outweighed trees’ role in curbing global warming. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from burning fossil fuels, from the air as they grow.

“It’s not all about carbon,” lead author Kim Naudts said, adding that government policies to favour forests should be re-thought to take account of factors such as their color and changes to moisture and soils.

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