By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
As humans use machines to burn fossil fuels, large amounts of the element “carbon” are released into the air. When there’s too much floating around, “carbon sinks” like trees absorb it. European scientists had been hopeful that the trees would continue cleaning the air for decades to come, but now the carbon sinks are about to overflow!
First of all, trees in England are beginning to mature, which means their growth rate is slowing to a stop. Now that the trees are slowing down, so is their carbon absorption. “Forests have now reached 70-80 years old and are starting a phase in the life of a tree where the growth rate starts to come down,” explained Gert-Jan Nabuurs from Wageningen University and Research Centre.
Not only are trees not growing anymore, there are less of them in the land. More trees are being cut down as humans expand across the continent, and less trees means less places to store carbon, which is the second reason the sinks are filling up. “Maybe it is time to concentrate more on continuous wood production again and rejuvenate forests again, so then you have growing forests and a continuous flow of wood products,” added Nabuurs.
Lastly, there’s just too much carbon being released into the air. Sure, some of it’s from cars and factories, but plenty also comes from the increasing number of natural fires. Nabuurs concludes that “all of this together means that the increase in the size of the sink is stopping; it is even declining a little. We see this as the first signs of [an overflowing] sink.”
He believes the nation’s government will have to come up with new policies to fight these overflowing sinks. However, just because you are not a member of the government (at least not yet) doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it. Plant a tree yourself, and then tell five of your friends to do the same. If they tell five of their friends, who then tell five of their friends, we can have a brand new forest up and running in no time!