Plants in cities are an underestimated carbon store

Jul 11, 2011

Vegetation in towns and cities can make a significant contribution to carbon storage and, ecologists say, could lock away even more carbon if local authorities and gardeners planted and maintained more trees. The study, published this week in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology, is the first to quantify how much carbon is stored in vegetation within an urban area of Europe.

Using and information gathered by visiting local parks and gardens, the researchers surveyed vegetation across Leicester, including domestic gardens and council-owned parks, golf courses, abandoned industrial land, road verges and river banks.

They found 231,000 tonnes of carbon (C) locked up in Leicester's above-ground vegetation, equivalent to 3.16 kg C per square metre of the city, an order of magnitude greater than current national estimates. Most of this carbon pool is associated with trees.

According to lead author Dr Zoe Davies of the University of Kent: "Large trees are especially important carbon stores. Most of the publicly owned or managed land across Leicester is . If just 10% of this were planted with trees, the existing carbon pool across the city could be increased by 12%."

"Trees, particularly large ones, should be protected and maintained and if more trees are planted in urban areas for their value, they must be the right kind of tree planted in the right place so that they have a long, productive , and when trees die they should be replaced," she says.

The data – which until now were lacking – are particularly important because local government will play a key part in helping the UK government meet its target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, from 1990 levels, by 2050.

According to Dr Davies: "Currently, once land in the UK is considered to be urban its biological carbon density is assumed to be zero. Our study illustrates this is not the case and that there is a substantial pool of carbon locked away in the vegetation within a city – another reason why urban trees and greenspaces should be valued."

"Although it is not a panacea for emissions reduction, our results demonstrate the potential benefits of accounting for, mapping and appropriately managing above-ground vegetation carbon stores, even within a typical densely urbanised European city," Dr Davies says.

Explore further: Germany restricts fracking but doesn't ban it

More information: Zoe G Davies et al (2011), 'Mapping an urban ecosystem service: quantifying above-ground carbon storage at a city-wide scale', doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2011.02021.x, is published in the Journal of Applied Ecology on 12 July 2011.

Related Stories

Choosing the Right Trees Can Affect Air Quality

Oct 08, 2006

Cities can improve their air quality simply by planting the right mix of trees for their climate, according to a study by researchers at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).

Prescribed burns may help reduce US carbon footprint

Mar 17, 2010

The use of prescribed burns to manage Western forests may help the United States reduce its carbon footprint. A new study finds that such burns, often used by forest managers to reduce underbrush and protect bigger trees, ...

Recommended for you

Germany restricts fracking but doesn't ban it

10 minutes ago

The German cabinet drew up rules Wednesday on the hitherto unregulated technology of "fracking" in Germany, narrowly restricting its use, but stopping short of an outright ban.

Life in the poisonous breath of sleeping volcanos

51 minutes ago

Researchers of the University Jena analyze the microbial community in volcanically active soils. In a mofette close to the Czech river Plesná in north-western Bohemia, the team around Prof. Dr. Kirsten Küsel ...

Eggs and chicken instead of beef reap major climate gains

1 hour ago

Beef on our plates is one of the biggest climate villains, but that does not mean we have to adopt a vegan diet to reach climate goals. Research results from Chalmers University of Technology show that adopting ...

Local action needed to protect nature from global warming

4 hours ago

Stronger local management can increase the resilience of nature to the impacts of climate change, writes an international team of researchers in Science. The authors examined three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: ...

Deforestation is messing with our weather and our food

4 hours ago

Today, the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) at the University of Maryland published new research in Nature Communications providing insight into how large-scale deforestation could ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.