Magazine article American Forests


Magazine article American Forests


Article excerpt


AMERICAN FORESTS: Where and what can we plant in the U.S. with global warming in mind? Is there time to plant near the coasts or should I designate my donations for inland forests?

Mary A. Hegier

Houston, Texas

Howard Burnett responds: Your question is a good one. but it does not have a simple clear-cut answer. Trees are approximately 50 percent carbon-some species more, some less-but that's a workable average in terms of a carbon sink to prevent the equivalent in atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is easy to say, then, that trees that grow the most tonnage of wood would be best at preventing global warming, and that those trees on the best sites would be the best of all. And that is the simple answer to your question: plant the fastest-growing trees, probably southern pines, on moist sites in the deep South.

But there are other considerations. What about establishing trees where there are none now? That way whatever growth was achieved would be a plus. Or perhaps other trees on better sites might replace poorer species or thinner stands. Growing maximum tons of wood might mandate something like the pine monocultures now used by some pulpwood operators, but would that really be the best treatment of the environment, when you consider the needs of wildlife, watershed values, and so forth?

AMERICAN FORESTS' Global ReLeaf program was begun in 1988 with a goal of planting trees, especially reestablishing native species where they had been removed or replaced with alternate species. To date more that 23 million trees have been so planted. Not all those trees are getting the maximum possible tonnage of carbon locked up in their wood, but lots of acres are contributing to the overall good.

I wish I could give you a clear-cut answer to your question, but donations to folks-like AMERICAN FORESTS-who can compare possible planting sites against each other, might be my choice. Either way, getting more trees in the ground is the right thing to do, and I commend you for your interest in this important topic.


AMERICAN FORESTS: My daughter has a paper to write for her seventh grade science class. She needs to know how the American chestnut got its name.

Maureen Pagan

Via e-mail

Howard Burnett responds: The American chestnut (castanea dentata) was once a principle component of the eastern hardwood forests, but the species has been almost totally removed by the chestnut blight. The blight infects and kills the trees, but the root systems survive and continue to send up sprouts. Some of these sprouts become small trees before they are attacked by the blight and killed. Hopefully, current breeding programs will one day provide blight-resistant chestnuts for "restocking" the hardwood forests.

I assume the inquiry has to do with the Latin name? "Castanea" is a Latin word for "chestnut. " and that is plain enough. The "dentata" comes from the leaves, which are "dentate" or toothed around the edges. The genus castenea is found in a number of places throughout the world, and early settlers familiar with European chestnuts, or Chinese or Japanese chestnuts, were no doubt pleased to discover the native American chestnut, which provided a source of food that reminded them of home. Chestnut trees were easily recognizable as a "cousin" of the trees they were familiar with in their homelands.


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