Carla Rabinowitz: Trees breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen

Wendell State Forest

Wendell State Forest STAFF FILE PHOTO

Published: 04-12-2024 5:43 PM

Modified: 04-15-2024 1:20 PM

The letter “Rural wood heating bolsters rural economy, self-reliance,” [Recorder, March 11] regarding wood heating contains a mischaracterization.

Trees breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. The carbon is stored within the tree itself. When a tree dies, falls and rots, some of the carbon is returned to the soil. There it is consumed by insects, fungi, and microorganisms that fix it in the soil, enriching the soil for future generations of oxygen-producing trees. Fungal networks, in turn, maintain the health of the forest by enabling trees to share nutrients and disease-fighting resources with each other. The rest of the carbon from the tree is released into the atmosphere, albeit very slowly, through decomposition.

Burning the wood, on the other hand, combines carbon with oxygen, quickly releasing all of the tree’s stored carbon and increasing the concentration of environmentally damaging CO2 in the atmosphere.

Carla Rabinowitz


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