The Plant-Based Workplace   by Gigi Carter


Trees that Sequester the Most Carbon

Several factors influence a tree’s capacity to sequester carbon, including its growth rate, lifespan, and the density of its wood. While fast-growing trees with dense wood tend to sequester more carbon over a shorter period, it’s crucial to consider the ecosystem context. This understanding is key to identifying the most suitable trees for specific regions or ecosystems, fostering a sense of responsibility and awareness in our approach to carbon sequestration.

Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Douglas fir is a fast-growing conifer native to the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains. It is also found in the mountainous areas of Arizona, New Mexico, and northern and central Mexico. It is known for its rapid growth of up to 3 feet a year, and dense wood, making it an efficient carbon sequesterer.

Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis)

Sitka spruce is another fast-growing conifer native to the Pacific Northwest. Its range is from Alaska to Northern California. Due to its rapid growth rate of 4 to 5 feet per year, and longevity of up to 800 years, the Sitka Spruce can sequester a considerable amount of carbon.

Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)

The Western Red Cedar is a large coniferous tree native to western North America. Its wood is highly decay-resistant and can survive damage from high winds when the tops break off. The Western Red Cedar can grow 2 to 3 feet per year, has a long lifespan of up to 1500 years, and can sequester significant amounts of carbon over its lifetime.

Tropical Hardwoods (e.g., Mahogany, Teak, and Merbau)

Tropical hardwoods include several hardwood species, such as mahogany (Swietenia spp.), teak (Tectona grandis), and merbau (Intsia spp.), are known for their dense wood and high carbon sequestration potential. However, tropical forests face threats from deforestation and degradation, which can compromise their carbon storage capacity. The demise of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest is a significant threat and why food choices matter.

Tropical Rainforest Species (e.g., Brazil Nut, Kapok, and Ceiba)

These species are found in tropical rainforests and have evolved to store significant amounts of carbon in their biomass. Examples include the Brazil nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa), kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra), and ceiba tree (Ceiba speciosa).

Oaks (Quercus spp.)

Oaks are widespread hardwood trees in temperate and subtropical regions worldwide. In fact, there are over 400 oak species, and these trees can be found in wet, dry, mountainous, and coastal areas. While they may not grow as rapidly as some conifer species, their dense wood and long lifespan contribute to significant carbon sequestration over time.

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.)

Eucalyptus trees are native to Australia and are also cultivated in other regions with suitable climates that are warm and sunny. Not only do Eucalyptus trees smell amazing, but they are also known for their fast growth and high wood density, making them efficient carbon sequesterers.

In summary, it’s crucial to note that the effectiveness of carbon sequestration depends not only on the species but also on factors such as local climate, soil conditions, and management practices. However, the most significant factor is the maintenance of healthy and diverse ecosystems. This is not just a suggestion but a call to action for all of us to play our part in maximizing carbon storage and resilience to environmental changes.