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March 14, 2011 9:20 AM   Subscribe

Cloning trees to stop global warming! Archangel Ancient Tree Archive is a non profit organization that creates clones of ancient trees and uses them for the purpose of functional forestation. They are doing their part to stop deforestation and fight global warming by planting these cloned trees in different area across the planet. They are also preserve some of the oldest living things on the planet for future generations as well!
posted by Mastercheddaar (63 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is it a good idea to reduce the genetic diversity of trees with millions of clones?
posted by stbalbach at 9:28 AM on March 14, 2011


Are the clones infertile, stbalbach?
posted by spicynuts at 9:31 AM on March 14, 2011


Okay I can't watch the 'Why Ancient Trees' video at work, so can someone tell me why they're cloning trees instead of planting pinecones? These aren't tasmanian tigers we're talking about here.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:31 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


So I was curious as to what made ancient trees better than other trees for fighting global warming but was unwilling to wait through the various animations and whatnot to watch videos about it. Luckily there's an NPR article!

"California's coastal redwoods and giant sequoias, the world's largest trees, are best suited for sequestering carbon because of their size, rapid growth and durability, said Bill Libby, a retired University of California at Berkeley tree geneticist and consultant to Archangel Archive. The longer a tree lives, the longer its carbon remains bottled up instead of reaching the atmosphere."
posted by ghharr at 9:33 AM on March 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't know enough to have a solid opinion about this, but I was fascinated to learn that salicylic acid from black willow roots helps to keep pond/lake water clean for fish health.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:35 AM on March 14, 2011


But you can plant new sequoias. I don't understand what the benefit to cloning them is.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:35 AM on March 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


"California's coastal redwoods and giant sequoias, the world's largest trees, are best suited for sequestering carbon because of their size, rapid growth and durability, said Bill Libby, a retired University of California at Berkeley tree geneticist and consultant to Archangel Archive. The longer a tree lives, the longer its carbon remains bottled up instead of reaching the atmosphere."

Ok.. that part makes sense... but the basic question is still, why clone them instead of planting them?
posted by edgeways at 9:37 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Skip Intro? What the hell, I thought the last two load times and graphic flourishes I sat through were the intro!

So about the third time I got slowly climbing but artistically rendered percentages, I bailed. So forgive me, but: as supportive as I am of the general idea of reforestation as a strategy against climate change, is there some particular reason they need to clone the trees first as opposed to, you know, just planting some?

I mean that's how the trees would do it.
posted by Naberius at 9:37 AM on March 14, 2011


Thanks for that link, ghharr. From the NPR site, it looks like they root clippings, so it's identical to "super-trees" that have survived for centuries, yet whose numbers are dwindling due to logging and habitat disturbance.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:38 AM on March 14, 2011


I guess the theory is that by cloning successful trees, the clones will also be successful.

Cloning plants* is really easy, frequently easier than starting something from seeds. Also, since some varities of plants don't come true from seed (meaning the parent plant and the plant grown from seed are completely different), it's a much easier way of ensuring your new tree has the same characteristics as the parent.


*Note: Googling "plant cloning" will lead you to lots and lots of links about growing weed.
posted by electroboy at 9:43 AM on March 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


You can propagate giant sequoia from seed; it's just considered more difficult for the novice. You can buy saplings commercially, and the odds that your tree will make it are better. The general reason to clone a tree is that there's more variance in the traits among seedlings. When you clone, you know that you are selecting a fast-growing long-lived hardy tree.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:45 AM on March 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Ah okay. Thanks.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:49 AM on March 14, 2011


One thing I've noticed here in the UK is giant Sequioas. Someone, or rather many people have been planting them and, judging by their size, not just recently. They seem to thrive in the cool foggy UK climate. So wonderful to see one, like seeing an old friend. Looks like someone else is compiling a list.
posted by vacapinta at 9:50 AM on March 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Perhaps they think that long lived ancient trees posses some attributes that will make the good anchors for reforrestation efforts. This seems like a largely untested hypothesis.
posted by humanfont at 9:53 AM on March 14, 2011


I mean that's how the trees would do it.

Not always. See Pando for an example of a massive clonal colony of quaking aspen trees.
posted by jedicus at 9:53 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mature trees generally don't continue to sequester carbon like a growing tree, as they're not adding woody mass. Obviously they continue to store the carbon that's already been removed from the atmosphere; but if your goal is to sequester as much carbon as possible you either need to expand the amount of forested area, or cut down old trees and use the wood for something like furniture or building materials, where the carbon is kept in storage.
posted by electroboy at 9:55 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


And then the trees will turn against us and kill people. I saw it in a movie once. It must be true!

...

Seriously, though. It sounds like an excellent idea, but It's not so much that trees need to be cloned to have more trees to plant, but rather that we need to cut fewer of them down and/or protect more forests. I feel like cloned trees might make companies feel they have even more justification to cut them down. Not like they need justification, but I bet they'd run with it.
posted by thymelord at 9:58 AM on March 14, 2011


"David Milarch said he was aghast to learn that vast tree plantations were being cultivated in Ireland — not with native oaks, but with pine and cypress imports from California that would grow quickly and be harvested instead of helping cleanse and cool the planet as native champions would do."

Those are your tree champions if your goal is to scrub CO2 out of the atmosphere. A pine tree that grows fast, turns into a deck, and leaves space for another pine tree has done that job much more efficiently than a sequoia ever could. That said though, this project is awesome.

Back home in the Pacific Northwest I lived in the middle of a 50-60 year old rain forest and it was indescribably beautiful, but nothing like the majestic dignity real old growth, like what it had replaced. There is something awesome, and real, and more important than me or what I might want about a tree older than civilization. I'm glad these folks are doing this.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:01 AM on March 14, 2011


but if your goal is to sequester as much carbon as possible you either need to expand the amount of forested area, or cut down old trees and use the wood for something like furniture or building materials, where the carbon is kept in storage.

Or, instead of stacking up a Babel-esque tower of end tables, you could pyrolize it to create biochar and sequester massive amounts of CO2 while creating some the most fertile agricultural soils ever seen, the way Amazonian natives did a thousand years ago.
posted by Naberius at 10:02 AM on March 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


As a passionate lover of trees I hate to say this, but the net effect of increasing trees could quite possibly be to increase net warming because of the reduction in albedo. I'm not saying "don't plant trees," but if your ultimate goal is to stop global warming, planting trees may not be the solution.
posted by stinker at 10:02 AM on March 14, 2011


Similar to vacapinta's sighting of giant Sequoias in the UK, I know of a lovely stand of coast redwood in southern California, in a residential yard a couple hundred miles south of the closet natural grove. The couple lives near the coast, complete with coastal fog. They've planted a stand of five or so small trees, and gave them more regular water than they'd receive in the wild. 20 years later, their little trees are easily 100 ft tall, with significant trunks.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:07 AM on March 14, 2011


What a horrible website that is. Thanks, ghharr for the informative link.

Their idea seems to be: "Redwoods are cool! Let's grow more redwoods!" My main problem with that comes from ghharr's link:
Terry Root, a Stanford University climate change expert, said giant tree clones could help fight global warming if large numbers are planted where conditions favor their long-term survival. "You can't put a redwood or giant sequoia just anywhere." (emphasis mine)
The Pacific temperate rainforest is huge and indeed produces a stupendous amount of biomass per acre. Redwoods, however, only grow in a very limited part of it, the most southerly reaches. I think their stated goals would be better acomplished by finding the hardiest douglas fir or sitka spruce. I doubt that redwoods would do as well in the Olympic Peninsula or Cathedral Grove or the Haida Gwaii or The Alaska Panhandle.
posted by bonehead at 10:10 AM on March 14, 2011


This kind of thing always strikes me as being akin to offering someone a blood transfusion while continuing to stab them in the throat.
No amount of clever carbon sinking ideas are going to help if we can't address the root problem, which seems to be economically driven over consumption.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:14 AM on March 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


you could pyrolize it to create biochar and sequester massive amounts of CO2 while creating some the most fertile agricultural soils ever seen, the way Amazonian natives did a thousand years ago.

Or you could do both. It's not like wood as a building material is going away anytime soon. Besides, biochar hasn't been proven as a large scale agricultural technique, or that it's replicable in other climates.
posted by electroboy at 10:27 AM on March 14, 2011


Even if it is a little early for Arbor day, George Orwell eloquently puts in a good word for the Vicar of Bray and the planters of trees.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:42 AM on March 14, 2011


Not just a terrible website, but actually, literally broken. "Determining buffer" (did Real make this?) stuck at 99%.

Anyway, where do I click to have them send me a giant sequoia rootling so I can have an awesome huge tree in my backyard?

Because obviously my backyard is the perfect ecosystem "across the planet" for these trees. Due to their ancient genes, which have proven they can live anywhere that is in Northern California but not too far inland or right on the coast.
posted by DU at 10:57 AM on March 14, 2011


Yeah, this seems a bit like peeing into the ocean to warm it up, but planting redwoods & sequoias is pretty cool. They're pretty awesome trees.
posted by GuyZero at 10:59 AM on March 14, 2011


You can't put a redwood or giant sequoia just anywhere.

Actually, a "redwood" is a sequoia.

Like all plants, sequoias have climates and soils that they prefer. Giant sequoias are successfully growing in many places in the US and in Europe, though. Coastal sequoias are smaller and a bit more picky about where they'll grow, though.

I'd venture that the lack of giant sequoias outside of California is more a function of their slow growth than their ability to grow elsewhere.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:24 AM on March 14, 2011


I doubt that redwoods would do as well in the Olympic Peninsula or Cathedral Grove or the Haida Gwaii or The Alaska Panhandle.

Maybe yes, maybe no. Giant sequoias are very hardy, but they really need cold winters and relatively high humidity. Also, they don't self-propagate very well. The cones often don't open to release seeds unless there is enough heat to dry them out. Often, that requires a forest fire.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:35 AM on March 14, 2011


...a non profit organization that creates clones of ancient trees and uses them for the purpose of functional forestation.

Wow. Wouldn't this be cool if they could do it for say, oh, I dunno... dinosaurs?
posted by mmrtnt at 11:44 AM on March 14, 2011


Actually, a "redwood" is a sequoia.

Technically, yes, since they're in the same subfamily, but "redwood" is the much more commonly used English name for them, and I don't see the harm in such a special tree having it's own special name.
posted by Tsuga at 11:45 AM on March 14, 2011


Why not just plant Western Cedar or Sitka Spruce then? They do better in that climate and, while not as tall as redwoods, they certainly get big enough for all practical purposes.
posted by bonehead at 11:52 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It looks like they're taking samples from champion trees of all sorts. I think people are just noting the Redwoods because they're such unique trees.
posted by electroboy at 12:03 PM on March 14, 2011


Dawn Redwoods might also be a good choice. They're not nearly as tall, but grow in Zones 4-8.
posted by electroboy at 12:06 PM on March 14, 2011


Why not just plant Western Cedar or Sitka Spruce then? They do better in that climate and, while not as tall as redwoods, they certainly get big enough for all practical purposes.

We certainly need as many trees of all varieties as we can get. From a practical standpoint, conifers are the best way to go from a time-to-maturity perspective. Douglas Firs are another awesome tree sizewise.

I think they're emphasizing redwoods for their longevity. There's less "upkeep" once they are grown.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:11 PM on March 14, 2011


So much bad science here. First of all, there is tons of research on finding the fastest growing trees to plant in various locations, because that's how timber companies make money. If you want to maximize the amount of carbon absorbed by trees on a given acre of land, you want the fastest growing trees possible. As trees age, their rate of growth slows. When trees reach this age in a commercial forest they're often harvested. From a carbon-reducing standpoint this is okay, since the wood then becomes tables and houses and other things that don't release carbon back to the atmosphere. Longer-lived trees don't necessarily grow the fastest (see Pine, Bristlecone) and old-growth forests are approximately carbon neutral, since carbon taken up by trees is matched by carbon released from the decay of old, dead trees. As Blasdelb points out above, the Irish forests full of fast-growing, non-native pines that left Milarch aghast are in fact very efficient at absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.

Secondly, planting gazillions of clones increases the likelihood that a pest species like an insect or fungus will be able to kill off vast stands of trees.

(This is my reaction to the NPR article. Maybe they explain things in their website, but I can't watch the videos right now.)
posted by Tsuga at 12:13 PM on March 14, 2011


Big trees are better for CO2 sequestering because they will last for 100s of years, which is a gap of time needed to transition to renewable energy sources. They act as a bridge. Some faster growing wood can be used the same way (in housing stock), but I think most wood is used for paper.

I've noticed here in the UK is giant Sequioas.

They're cute when young, but doesn't it seem ludicrous to have a 20 story tall tree in ones yard? (this one pictured is just getting started) What happens if a storm caused it to fall, it could crush a few houses and kill scores. Attack of the redwood. After one incident, I bet the local governments will force them to be taken down in certain places, and the cost to do it (safely in a built-up area) would probably be more than the cost of a house itself.
posted by stbalbach at 12:21 PM on March 14, 2011


Their website has an oily, overproduced feeling to it, with the animated transitions and string music. But I love the basic idea! We really need more trees in the world, quite apart from any global warming considerations, because we need more animal habitat and water remediation.

Where I live the North Saskatchewan river is the source of life. It comes out of the Rockies really clean, but by the time it passes through Edmonton and all the agricultural land both north and south of here it gets pretty green and anaerobic. (In the spring and summer, of course. There's nothing but ice right now.) There's so much runoff of fertilizer and cow manure that it encourages the growth of algae and kills off everything else. Only about four percent of its 1200 kilometers has any forest or wetlands at the edge to catch all that runoff. But if we really put our minds to it and planted trees like the black willow and dogwood they mention in that website, we could fill out so much more of the watershed and bring the river back to life. I don't think their black willow would grow here, but there's probably a native equivalent. And dogwood does really well locally. We have a fifty year old bush behind our garage, and the birds go crazy for it every spring because of the berries.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:21 PM on March 14, 2011


Big trees are better for CO2 sequestering because they will last for 100s of years, which is a gap of time needed to transition to renewable energy sources.

Not necessarily. You want the most useable biomass produced at the fastest rate. That may mean one large, slow-growing tree, or several cycles of smaller, faster-growing trees. It depends on the climate and a bunch of other factors.
posted by electroboy at 12:38 PM on March 14, 2011


First of all, there is tons of research on finding the fastest growing trees to plant in various locations, because that's how timber companies make money.

True, but there's a serious drawback if you want structurally sound wood. Fast growing trees produce wood sooner, true enough. But they greatly increase the summer growth ring size (the light colored rings in the tree). This is the least strong wood in the tree - and it's more susceptible to rot and infestation. Slower growing trees produce denser rings and stronger wood.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:40 PM on March 14, 2011


Of course it's structurally sound wood. You don't make furniture out of it, but it's fine for framing, plywood etc.
posted by electroboy at 12:46 PM on March 14, 2011


That's a good point. If fast growing trees tend to produce weaker wood, then it's more likely that wood will be used for things like particle board and paper (like stbalbach mentioned), which will then be used and thrown away more quickly, then it'll rot in landfills and release that carbon again.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:46 PM on March 14, 2011


Of course it's structurally sound wood. You don't make furniture out of it, but it's fine for framing, plywood etc.

Actually, it's an issue. I just recently got out of the lumber industry after 25+ years, so I've witnessed the changes first hand. The quality of framing lumber has gone down the tubes, because the industry has moved too far in the direction of fast-growing cultivars. The wood has larger growth rings and is definitely weaker and much more prone to cup, bend and twist.

Good for paper? Definitely. Good for plywood? Usually. Good for framing. Eh.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:55 PM on March 14, 2011


That's why there's so much more engineered lumber than there used to be.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:57 PM on March 14, 2011


So much bad science here....old-growth forests are approximately carbon neutral, since carbon taken up by trees is matched by carbon released from the decay of old, dead trees....

Old growth forests aren't carbon neutral according to the latest research, they are carbon sinks.
posted by euphorb at 1:01 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cupping, bending and twisting can be sorted out by the end user in most cases. Engineered wood and plywood are good uses for lower quality trees because they're not affected as much by imperfections in the wood. Paper obviously isn't a great choice because it gets used up pretty quickly and the carbon goes back into circulation.
posted by electroboy at 1:14 PM on March 14, 2011


then it'll rot in landfills and release that carbon again

Landfills seem to be pretty good for sequestration, actually. High pressure, low oxygen and dry (-ish) conditions mean little degredation. I'll bet most of them turn into coal-like fields in geologic time.
posted by bonehead at 2:23 PM on March 14, 2011


So if cutting down and using trees is the best way to sequester carbon (as long as new trees are planted) shouldn't we stop recycling paper?

Paper that ends up buried in landfills would be that much carbon out of the atmosphere.

I'm only half kidding.
posted by Bonzai at 2:28 PM on March 14, 2011


Makes sense to me. I assumed that by now we'd be killing useless/dangerous animal species and keeping a bit of their DNA for cloning. I figured cloning would make 'endangered species' irrelevant. Just clone whatever you need
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 2:35 PM on March 14, 2011


The thing is though, even when they get animal cloning to work properly you'd still have the problem of genetic variation. Just a few samples sitting in a lab is practically the same thing as extinction, since you'd be bringing back a species with almost no diversity. To make it work you'd need hundreds, or maybe even thousands of samples from different individuals.

And the same thing is true for plants, which is another thing I like about this idea. Somebody should be saving all the genetic diversity represented by old trees and keeping it alive, but I wonder how legit the Archangel organization is. The website just screams "scam."
posted by Kevin Street at 2:44 PM on March 14, 2011


Things still degrade in landfills, they just do it anaerobically. You can harvest methane from landfill gas, but it's still putting carbon back into the atmosphere when you burn it.

Really with most of the possible solutions to global warming is that they don't lend themselves to pat solutions. You really have to do a lifecycle analysis to figure out whether you're coming out ahead. For example, cycling through a series of small fast growing trees might yield more wood biomass, but harvesting it produces carbon as well through fuel use and removal of the understory. It might be more beneficial to plant forests and leave them untouched, but it also effectively takes land out of circulation, making it less economical.
posted by electroboy at 2:56 PM on March 14, 2011


The problem with any clone trees is that they become more subsceptible to disease the more common they are. Apple trees are a great example - if you plant a seed from a parent tree, you get a completely different apple, so the only way to get the same apple variety is to clone the tree (take cuttings, root stock grafting, etc). The apple varieties we eat today are not the apple varieties we ate in the 16th century, however, and the reason is not because the 16th century apples weren't nice, it's because the clone-trees that produced those apples rapidly developed parasites and other bugs and became untenable. The beetles or other things that could attack the trees became specialised to those apple varieties - and there was always another identical tree to move on to.
The way you prevent disease is to have a large amount of genetic variation within a species. Planting a whole bunch of clones is just asking for a super-beetle or super-fungus that will destroy them all a century later, so why they think this is a good idea to "clone" rather than "plant", I have no clue.
posted by BigCalm at 3:15 PM on March 14, 2011


why they think this is a good idea to "clone" rather than "plant", I have no clue.

For the same reason they do it with fruit trees, because you know exactly what you're going to get.

Also, it's pretty hard to raise this specific variety of tree from seed. Very, very few wild redwoods grow from seed.

And anyway, with fruit trees they usually use rootstock from one type and the bearing parts are grafted on so they try to get the best of both worlds in terms of predictability vs disease resistance. Cf. wine grapes
posted by GuyZero at 3:34 PM on March 14, 2011


The way you prevent disease is to have a large amount of genetic variation within a species. Planting a whole bunch of clones is just asking for a super-beetle or super-fungus that will destroy them all a century later, so why they think this is a good idea to "clone" rather than "plant", I have no clue.

This.

I think they are on the right track when they select certain trees for certain purposes, but they are on the wrong track with the cloning. Not that some cloning is not a good idea; I think they think they are being smart by selecting for "success" which is not a predictor for the future.

Intervention to some degree is needed, though, if you want real diversity. For example, a lot of eastern forests have regrown, but what were originally primarily hardwood forests have been replaced with more opportunistic softwoods. From a carbon standpoint, there's probably not much difference, but there is now much less diversity. That can lead to the problems mentioned above.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:34 PM on March 14, 2011


My understanding is that they're looking for people to plant these trees here and there, in cities or in the countryside wherever there's space. They'd be scattered all over the world, and hopefully less susceptible to a bug or blight in any one area.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:35 PM on March 14, 2011


For the same reason they do it with fruit trees, because you know exactly what you're going to get.

Really this is only important for economic reasons. Either you want a fruiting plant to have unusually large and uniform yields or you want a hybrid plant to do the same.

A wild grape vine will still produce grapes, just not necessarily an economically exploitable crop. And hybrid food crops, designed to "overyield", won't breed true from seed - so they need to be cloned.

In both situations, you're just exchanging diversity for economic advantage.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:40 PM on March 14, 2011


The apple varieties we eat today are not the apple varieties we ate in the 16th century, however, and the reason is not because the 16th century apples weren't nice, it's because the clone-trees that produced those apples rapidly developed parasites and other bugs and became untenable.
Actually the apple varieties we eat today ARE the same as the 16th century apples (except for new cultivars). They are clones. That's one of the coolest thing about apples -- when you eat a Gravenstein, you are technically eating from the same tree as the original Gravenstein, only one that's been cloned and spread around the world because it's so tasty.

As for all the carbon talk, which I'm usually keen to hear, I think the point of this org is more to encourage people to care about trees by highlighting, and preserving through cuttings, some of the longest-lasting members. It makes sense if you consider these "champion" trees may have a genetic advantage towards longevity (as do some humans, but that's another cloning story).

I'm not sure why the discussion got sidetracked into finding the most efficient carbon sink method with trees...I thought the point of the schmaltzy videos was to make you think, omygod, those things are BEAUTIFUL...we HAVE to do something to save them.
posted by ecourbanist at 3:49 PM on March 14, 2011


Old growth forests aren't carbon neutral according to the latest research, they are carbon sinks.
posted by euphorb at 3:01 PM on March 14 [1 favorite +] [!]


I stand corrected!

As for all the carbon talk, which I'm usually keen to hear, I think the point of this org is more to encourage people to care about trees by highlighting, and preserving through cuttings, some of the longest-lasting members. It makes sense if you consider these "champion" trees may have a genetic advantage towards longevity (as do some humans, but that's another cloning story).

It would be cool to plant a clone of the world's biggest/tallest/oldest trees in my backyard as a conversation starter. But the NPR article implied that the organization's reason for cloning these trees was because they will be guaranteed to grow the fastest, no matter where they're planted, which seems pretty naive in the face of extensive research on what trees grow fastest in different locations.
posted by Tsuga at 5:06 PM on March 14, 2011


Old growth forests aren't carbon neutral according to the latest research, they are carbon sinks.

Previously.
posted by homunculus at 5:14 PM on March 14, 2011


Sounds like NPR might have gotten some of their facts wrong (at least the part about trying to grow these trees quickly - there are plenty of quicker and more brittle species for that).

Or maybe the org shares some of the responsibility. Much of the reason any one of these champion trees got to the venerable age and size it did was environmental, so to imply that they'll do the same anywhere is misleading.

But...even though the vids were slickicized, and for all that maybe representative of the org, I still think the trees looked fabulous.
posted by ecourbanist at 5:18 PM on March 14, 2011


Benny Andajetz writes "Really this is only important for economic reasons. Either you want a fruiting plant to have unusually large and uniform yields or you want a hybrid plant to do the same. "

Open pollinated apples generally taste horrible and are pretty well only useful for their pretty blossoms and for making cider. The good news is that the wide variety of selective breeding done over the past few hundred years and continuing today means apples despite being clones are incredibly diverse. There are thousands of different clone stocks available.
posted by Mitheral at 6:55 PM on March 14, 2011


humanfont: "Perhaps they think that long lived ancient trees posses some attributes that will make the good anchors for reforrestation efforts. This seems like a largely untested hypothesis"

I think these people have a huge lack of understanding of just how important site microclimates and sheer luck play into any individual tree's success— beyond the genetics.

electroboy: "Mature trees generally don't continue to sequester carbon like a growing tree, as they're not adding woody mass. Obviously they continue to store the carbon that's already been removed from the atmosphere; but if your goal is to sequester as much carbon as possible you either need to expand the amount of forested area, or cut down old trees and use the wood for something like furniture or building materials, where the carbon is kept in storage"
General Sherman, the largest tree in the world, is still putting on huge amounts of biomass annually. Sequoias are extremely efficient carbon storage… in their native range (or similar habitats), which is a tiny portion of the planet.
posted by Red Loop at 7:21 PM on March 14, 2011


I don't know any specifics about General Sherman, but I'd say that the sequoias are mostly an edge case and not what you want to design a carbon storage scheme around.
posted by electroboy at 7:16 AM on March 15, 2011


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