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Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science

Forests Absorb Carbon Dioxide

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 carbon dioxide (CO2) gas from the atmosphere to create carbohydrates and oxygen (O2). More about the carbon cycle>>

Carbon Sequestration

Greenhouse gases are increasing in the atmosphere and causing climate change. Scientist, policy makers, and citizens are trying to determine how to decrease and possibly reverse the emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (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 >>

Forest Carbon Research

Scientific research is necessary to improve our understanding of the global carbon cycle. Gathering information on the nature of carbon in the atmosphere and on land lends itself to the development of tools and technologies necessary to reduce the impacts of global climate change. Forests play an essential role in this, and research provides the knowledge necessary to ensure sustainable forest management that works to reduce levels of atmospheric carbon while maintaining other critical forest functions.


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Last Modified: 10/15/2010

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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!