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CO2 and trees

All trees, including the ones you will have seen as part of the BEAGLE Project, play a large part in storing carbon and processing carbon dioxide into oxygen by the process of photosynthesis. This process normally takes place in the leaves. Trees come in all shapes and sizes, which ones are better to absorb carbon dioxide?

Above you see three different trees. The heights of all the trees are all 12 metres.  The radius of each tree is 4 metres. 


  • Calculate the volume of each of the trees. Which of the trees has the greatest volume and would therefore be able to process the greatest amount of carbon dioxide?
  • Most deciduous trees will only have leaves for no more than nine months of the year. How will this affect the amount of carbon dioxide that is being processed by these trees? Conifer trees have needles and will photosynthesise all year. However, conifer trees also block light from hitting the ground and so can reduce biodiversity. Weighing up carbon dioxide absorption and biodiversity, what is the best solution if you were to plant an area of trees?
  • Many organisations are now using trees as a way of reducing their carbon footprint. In 2003 the UK produced approximately 54 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. One tree processes on average one tonne of carbon dioxide per year. It would be difficult to counteract the effects of CO2 with trees alone. Create a mind map of different ways in which we can reduce or combat levels of CO2.
  • Go online and calculate your own carbon footprint. There are many websites where you can do this, (for example here). How many and what combination of the different shaped trees would you have to plant each year just to counteract your own carbon footprint? Which shape tree may be the best to plant? Look at the graphs of CO2 emissions over recent years; is this a sustainable solution in the long term when the population in Europe is also growing?