Browse by Subject
Contact Information

Northern Research Station
11 Campus Blvd., Suite 200
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 557-4017
(610) 557-4132 TTY/TDD

You are here: NRS Home / Research Programs / NIACS / Carbon / Forest carbon basics
Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science

Forest carbon basics - Forest absorb carbon

Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is necessary for plants and trees to grow. Forests play a specific and important role in the global carbon cycle by absorbing carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, storing carbon above and belowground, and producing oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis. In the presence of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, forests become even more vital by removing CO2 from the atmosphere to mitigate the effects of climate change on the environment.
Forests in the United States absorb and store about 750 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, an amount equivalent to 10% of the country’s CO2 emissions.

The Carbon Cycle

Carbon is an abundant element that is necessary for life on Earth. The carbon cycle is the exchange of carbon between all of the earth’s components—the atmosphere, oceans and rivers, rocks and sediments, and living things. The processes of photosynthesis and respiration are the basis of the carbon cycle. In photosynthesis, plants use energy from the sun and CO2 gas from the atmosphere to create carbohydrates and oxygen. More about the carbon cycle >>

Carbon Sequestration

Greenhouse gases are increasing in the atmosphere and causing climate change. Scientists, policy makers, and citizens are trying to determine how to decrease and possibly reverse the emission of greenhouse gases, especially CO2. Carbon sequestration, a process where CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and stored for a long period of time, may be one way to slow or reverse the accumulation of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere. More about carbon sequestration >>

Carbon Accounting and Trading

 The ability of trees to absorb and remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it long-term in wood and wood products is a new venture for many forest landowners and managers. Forest carbon sequestration helps to maintain the ecosystem services forests provide and may also serve as a source of revenue for landowners through participation in various carbon trading programs. More about carbon trading >>>


Last Modified: 08/02/2017

About NIACS:
Trees absorb CO2

Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow

In photosynthesis, atmospheric CO2 is converted into sugar and cellulose and stored in the tree’s wood, leaves, and roots. Trees and wood are 50% carbon by weight, so growing trees in a forest accumulate carbon!