Carbon sequestration

Asked August 25, 2015, 10:09 PM EDT

What plants are best suited to sequester carbon (and thereby mitigate climate change) in residential landscapes?

Douglas County Nebraska

1 Response

This question is an extremely important one, and although it is out of my direct area of study, I reached out to other colleagues who could provide an answer. According to Foster Agblevor, Biological Engineering Professor at USU, evergreens harvest Co2 year-round. Brian McPherson, a scientist at the University of Utah's Energy and Geoscience Institute and a Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering stated,

"The amount of carbon taken up by plants – even massive agricultural operations – is quite nominal compared to emissions. About 12 years ago, I completed a study of the potential impact of terrestrial (plant – based) carbon storage, and the results were quite disappointing. Even a major shift in agricultural practices would yield only a fraction of storage capacity increase compared to geologic carbon storage.

All that said, perhaps the best advice is to recommend planting "permanent" plants – trees and shrubs that live as long as possible. The carbon is locked up only as long as the plant exists."

U.S. Geological Survey scientist, Dr. Sasha Reed supported this opinion in, stating:

"The factors that can be most important in carbon sequestration for plants are:

1. A plant that takes up a lot of carbon from the atmosphere (via photosynthesis) and

2. A plant that holds onto that carbon for a long time, for example by living for a long time. So planting a tree could be good if you have the space!"

I hope this helps! It seems long-living perennials are your best bet for carbon sequestration.