With various claims about the benefits of trees on reducing and reversing climate change, you might be wondering, “How much carbon does a tree capture?”
Trees are nature’s best carbon capture technology and have been working to clean the air since the first leafy frond appeared on Earth, and research shows that they are one of the best tools the planet has (at the moment) to help mitigate climate change.
But, all trees aren’t the same…certain species can store more carbon than others. (Check out the eco-power of the 24 below!)
In fact, the biomass of the tree play a distinctive role in how much carbon the tree sequesters.
Understanding how this works can help you calculate how much carbon a tree can capture.
How Much Carbon Does a Tree Absorb? Find Out With This Tree Carbon Calculator
As natural carbon sinks (or carbon reservoirs), trees capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere as they grow, but the amount of CO2 captured by a tree depends on its size, it’s age, and other factors, like the tree’s species and where it is growing.1
The calculator above estimates the average lifetime carbon benefits of any tree, based on its size. And, it shows equivalents, so you can see just how beneficial a tree is to the planet.
Forests are also critical to ecosystems, providing habitat for animals and plants, many of which are vital to survival. Forests also provide a range of environmental services most people take for granted. For example, they absorb storm water and reduce flooding, protect water quality by filtering out pollutants and sediment from waterways, and provide shade to cool the cities.
Calculating How Much Carbon Does a Tree Absorb: DIY Steps
The calculator above will help you determine how many trees you need to plant to offset your carbon footprint. Others can also allow you to compare the different types of trees and calculate how much carbon dioxide your favorite tree can capture in a year.6
If you’re planting trees to offset your carbon footprint, it helps to know which species absorb the most carbon. Some tree benefits calculators12 determine which tree species you can grow to contribute the most carbon capture.
Follow these steps:
- Step 1: Determine whether you are using the calculator for a single tree or a group of trees to determine how much carbon a tree captures.
- Step 2: Enter the trunk circumference (single tree) or the number of trees, and the approximate age of the tree(s).
- Step 3: View calculation results immediately, including how much oxygen the trees produce, and how much carbon emissions they store.
How Is Carbon Sequestered by a Tree?
Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is one approach to reducing the amount of climate change-causing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Trees are the largest living organisms on earth and use photosynthesis to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. The carbon they take in is stored in the tree’s fibers (roots and other areas) as it grows.
Just by growing up, a tree will sequester carbon over its lifetime. This process is called biological sequestration.
Carbon sequestration is basically the retention of carbon dioxide (being stored) by some process (trees are very good at it) in order to help fight climate change and greenhouse gas impact on the planet.
Carbon sequestration13 is the natural or artificial removal of CO2 from the atmosphere and storage of it in solid or liquid form to mitigate climate change. Most forms of biological sequestration are long-term and involve storing large amounts of biomass for a long time.
Biomass can be stored underground (geological sequestration), underwater (ocean sequestration), or on land (terrestrial sequestration). Forests effectively retain carbon because their biomass consists of large amounts of woody material that persists for decades to centuries after being established.
Carbon Sequestering Through Photosynthesis
Carbon is sequestered by a tree when absorbed from the air during photosynthesis and stored as carbon in the wood.8
Carbon sequestration occurs very efficiently in trees, particularly those that live for a long time, such as coastal redwood trees. Trees store 50% to 75% of the carbon they take up from the atmosphere in their wood, and the rest is released back into the atmosphere during respiration.
Photosynthesis only occurs during sunlight hours and is more efficient in warmer weather. The amount of carbon sequestered depends on its species, size, and life stage. In addition to the carbon sequestered by a tree’s trunk, roots, branches, and leaves, additional carbon is stored in the soil when the tree sheds its leaves or branches.
The amount of carbon that a tree can sequester over its lifetime depends on its size, species, and location. For example, larger trees (with more biomass) generally sequester more carbon than smaller trees of the same species because they have more space to store it. And trees growing near oceans or in wet climates tend to grow faster and sequester more carbon than trees growing inland or in dry climates.8
Importance of Plants in Carbon Capture
Trees and other plants pull some carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it as carbon in their trunks and branches. Forests and other green spaces are essential to reducing carbon footprint. Forests are particularly effective at sequestering carbon because trees can live for hundreds of years.
This is why tree planting carbon offset programs can deliver real reductions in carbon footprint amounts, when purchased from the top carbon offset providers. Some providers will have a one-month carbon offset product which would allow individuals to offset their average carbon emissions in a month.
It’s not just trees that sequester carbon14 — plants do it too. Grasslands can be more efficient at storing carbon than forests if they’re managed properly. For example, when grazing lands are managed using techniques like rotational grazing (where livestock move periodically, so the grasses have time to recover), these grasses can sequester more carbon than some forests.
What Happens When Trees Die?
Some carbon is released back into the atmosphere when trees die or are cut down unless it stays trapped in wood products such as lumber or paper. If trees are burned for fuel or left to decompose naturally, their stored carbon will become part of atmospheric CO2 and contribute to global warming for centuries or even thousands of years.
When a tree dies, most of its carbon is not released back into the atmosphere as CO2 but remains stored in forest soils, peat bogs, and wetlands, making forests an essential tool in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. However, if trees are harvested and processed into long-lasting wood products such as lumber or pulp for paper, the dead tree will keep its stored carbon out of the atmosphere.7
If you build your home out of wood instead of steel and concrete, your home will hold that carbon until it eventually decomposes back into the soil as part of a forest ecosystem.
Which Tree Absorbs the Most CO2?
Several trees absorb CO2 more than others, with some types of trees absorbing enormous amounts. Some species have specific qualities that make them better at absorbing CO2. For example, some have a longer lifespan, and some grow faster than others.
Mangrove trees are known for their high carbon sequestration abilities, as well as other marshy tree systems that have their roots based in waterways.
However, due to their lifespan and size, the Giant Sequoia tree takes the prize for storing the most carbon emissions during it’s life.
How Much Carbon Does a Tree Capture? By Species
When you think of trees, you probably think about their importance to the environment. But which trees absorb the most carbon dioxide, and what role do they play in our environment? While it is inevitable that all trees have an essential role in absorbing carbon dioxide, there are some more effective than others.
How Much Carbon Does One Tree Offset?
Although the general rule is about 120-150 pounds of carbon sequestration by a single tree, this total varies widely depending on what type of tree it is and where it’s located.1
Find below a list of how much carbon a tree captures by species over its lifetime.20
|Tree Species||Carbon Emissions Captured in Pounds of CO2|
|Coastal Redwood Trees||500,000|
|English Oak Trees||38,000|
|Leyland Cypress Trees||200 to 500|
|Austrian Pine Trees||2,500|
|Monterey Pine Trees||1,500 to 4,000|
|Monterey Cypress Trees||3,900|
|Turkey Oak Trees||4,800|
|Cherry Blossom Trees||1,120|
|American Chestnuts Trees||6,500|
|Dogwood Trees||750 to 800|
|Maple Trees||2,200 to 3,000|
1. Coastal Redwood
Coastal redwood trees are native to the West Coast of North America, and they grow fast and can be found worldwide now.
They absorb more CO2 than any other tree and produce more oxygen than any other single tree, usually because of their size and life cycle, which can end up storing over 500,000 pounds of carbon.
They are also very tall and have a large canopy.2
2. English Oak
The English oak is one of the most common oaks in the UK. It is a huge tree that can live for hundreds of years. This tree has small leaves that turn yellow in autumn and acorns that feed many wildlife species. English oak trees can be seen in woodlands and parks throughout the UK.1
The English oak is a native European tree that grows to about 100 feet high and spreads about 50 feet. Its leaves are dark green and turn orange-brown in fall. The English oak is another type of oak tree used for wood production and helps absorb CO2 from its surroundings, during it’s many hundreds of years life, it can sequester over 38,000 pounds of CO2.
These plants grow faster than other oak species, making them preferable among gardeners who want to clean up the environment.1
3. Oak Species
Along with the English oak, there are hundreds of other oaks worldwide.
All of them absorb high amounts of carbon dioxide15 and produce oxygen. However, trees in warm climates tend to absorb more carbon dioxide than those growing in cooler temperatures. Oaks also effectively remove pollutants from the air.
They can even absorb pollutants such as ozone, xylene, and benzene. Oaks were commonly planted along highways to help slow air pollution. However, if you have an allergy to pollen or acorns, you may want to grow something else. Oak trees are one of the most common hardwood trees found worldwide.
These trees are known for their longevity and ability to absorb CO2 from their surroundings. Oak trees can store as high as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide every year, making them an excellent source for cleaning up environmental waste, and over their lifetime, can store 14,400 pounds of CO2.
4. Mangrove Trees
Mangrove trees absorb more CO2 than most tree species and are excellent at soaking up saltwater, but their short lifespan means that each tree grabs about 700 pounds during it’s life. These trees anchor mangrove swamps, which provide valuable habitat for wildlife.
They’re tropical evergreens that grow in shallow waters worldwide and have long been used as a source of building materials and furniture.1
But, the incredible thing about the Mangroves is that they store this CO2 for thousands of years in intricate root systems underwater, which also promote the health of the coastal regions.
5. Leyland Cypress
The Leyland cypress is an evergreen tree that can grow up to three feet per year and lives for over 20 years on average. sequestering about 200 to 500 pounds of carbon during its life.
They make an attractive addition to any landscape and help with carbon sequestration and privacy screening around your home or business.
6. Austrian Pine
The Austrian Pine is a fast-growing conifer ideal for windbreaks and privacy screens as it grows quickly into a dense, bushy tree, and if it lives for it’s full lifetime, can absorb about 2,500 pounds of CO2.
A native of Europe, this pine is common in forestry and is known for being very hardy and will grow in poor soil conditions if there is adequate moisture.
Austrian Pine is a fast-growing pine tree that can grow up to 3 feet a year. It is incredibly adaptable to different soils, including compacted or dry ones, making it excellent for urban areas. Its dark green needles turn yellow in the winter, adding some interest to the winter landscape.
7. Gum Species
Gums are relatively fast growing trees that absorb carbon dioxide at 48 pounds per year. Some species include red gum, sweetgum, and southern gumbo limbo. Gums are often used as urban trees because they deal with pollution well but require little maintenance once established.
Trees of this type can be messy if planted under power lines and should be grown in an open area where their “gumballs” will not be a nuisance. These trees are great for yard shade and can survive in hardiness zones 4-9, but over its lifetime, the gum species can sequester up to 19,200 pounds of carbon in its biomass.
8. Monterey Pine
Of all the pines, Monterey pine is the fastest growing and can reach maturity within 15 or 20 years.
Native to Mexico and California, this pine has blue-green needles in three bundles, cones about 8cm long, and an open crown.
It grows at a moderate rate of up to 2 feet per year and reaches heights between 80 and 150 feet under ideal conditions. It grows quickly, even on poor soils, making it a perfect choice for the timber industry, so the sequestration is generally around 1,500 to 4,000 pounds of CO2, depending on how long it lives.
9. Monterey Cypress
Monterey Cypress is an evergreen species with a distinctive umbrella shape and is considered one of the most popular species worldwide.
This evergreen pine native to California is known for its fast growth rate and dense, bushy appearance. A single 8-year-old Monterey pine can absorb 13 pounds of CO2 each year and can sequester over 3,900 pounds of CO2 during its lifespan.
10. Turkey Oak
The Turkey Oak Tree is another great option if you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint and absorb some CO2 from the atmosphere.
These evergreen trees are native to Europe, Asia Minor, and North Africa, so they aren’t too hard to find! It has a robust root system, ideal for preventing soil erosion. It is drought-resistant and thrives in dry climates. Turkey Oaks can grow to be over 100 feet tall.
11. Ash Trees
Ash trees are deciduous trees common in the northern hemisphere. Ash trees can grow up to 82 feet tall and are a favorite food source for many animals, including bears, deer, and raccoons. The Ash Tree is also one of the most common types of wood used for furniture, flooring, and tool handles due to its strength and flexibility.
An Ash tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and produce enough oxygen16 for two people to breathe every day, sequestering about 12,000 pounds of carbon emissions during it’s life.
The ash is another fast-growing deciduous hardwood tree that absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide. Some species grow up to 100 feet tall with large canopy spreads and ideal shade trees for parks and residential areas.
12. Sycamore Trees
Sycamores are large deciduous trees that can grow up to 50 feet tall and spread out over 25 feet wide.
The Sycamore Tree is a large, fast-growing tree that is native to Europe and Asia.
They thrive throughout North America; they’re among the best-known trees in the United States. These trees grow so fast that they soak up more CO2 than many other tree species, and they live a long time, so they can absorb approximately 28,800 pounds of carbon during their life.
When you consider their large size and extensive root systems, this becomes even more apparent.
13. Grevillea Trees
The Grevillea tree is another excellent option if you’re looking for a tree that absorbs CO2. These deciduous trees are native to Australia, so this may be the perfect choice for your yard! Grevillea trees grow pretty rapidly and are suitable for absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
A Grevillea tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide every year, and during their life, about 2,880 pounds of carbon. These trees are known for their vibrant blooms and their high rate of carbon absorption.9
14. Basswood Trees
Basswood can grow to 120 feet tall and 6 feet wide. It has large, heart-shaped leaves that are a food source for caterpillars.
Basswood tree is considered one of the best trees for carbon capture because of their longevity, which ends up sequestering about 9,600 pounds. Basswood trees can grow in most locations and don’t require much maintenance.
15. Lemon Trees
A lemon tree produces fragrant flowers and fruit in warm climates.
They can reach 20 feet and have shiny green leaves and white flowers with yellow centers. It’s one of the most popular fruit trees for its sweet, acidic taste. It’s native to South Asia but cultivated worldwide since ancient times and grabs about 1,250 pounds of CO2 during it’s life.
16. Cherry Blossoms
Cherry blossoms are beautiful flowering trees that bloom in early spring.It can sequester about 1,120 pounds of carbon over its lifetime.
They’re a symbol of renewal, vitality, and beauty in Japan, where the Japanese celebrate them with annual festivals known as hanami (flower viewing).
You can’t go wrong with these beautiful flowers. The Cherry Blossom Tree adds color to your neighborhood and help fight climate change simultaneously!
17. Willow Trees
These tall, elegant trees effectively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Willow is one of the fastest-growing trees in North America and can grow up to 10 feet in a single year.
A mature willow tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide17 every year and produce more than 6,000 pounds of oxygen — enough to support two people– but the short lifespan means that it will only sequester about 1,200 pounds of carbon.
18. American Chestnuts
American chestnut trees can absorb about 21 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and produce nearly 3,000 pounds of oxygen.
Their high sugar content makes them one of the best options for carbon capture, and if they reach maturity, could sequester approximately 6,500 pounds of CO2.
They can quickly be grown on farms without causing any damage to the environment or natural habitat nearby.
A magnolia tree absorbs about 48 pounds of CO2 per year (about 3,800 pounds over their life) and produces nearly 4,000 pounds of oxygen.
Magnolia flowers are an iconic sight in the springtime. The state flower of Mississippi and Louisiana is also a tree that is an excellent carbon absorber.
It grows over ten feet tall and has a spread of about eight feet. Magnolias are commonly used in landscaping because they’re pretty hardy.
20. Banyan Trees
Another flowering tree good at absorbing carbon dioxide is the Banyan tree, which grows up to 30 feet tall and wide.
The Banyan tree takes some time to grow to full size but can live for more than 100 years if cared for properly, absorbing about 5,000 pounds of CO2.
It’s native to tropical climates, so it won’t grow well in areas with cold winters unless you can keep it inside during the wintertime.
The dogwood tree is another good at absorbing carbon dioxide and making a beautiful addition to any landscape.
It’s not as large as some other types, only growing about 25 feet tall when fully grown, but it has impressive blossoms that attract birds and butterflies alike during the springtime.
This ornamental tree can store about 750 to 800 pounds of CO2.
Mulberries are attractive trees that can live a long time, often more than 70 years. Mulberries produce a sweet fruit that you can make into jams and wines.
The mulberry is one of the best trees for capturing carbon. It has a high growth rate and can grow between 30 and 40 meters. It is also very easy to grow, so it can be grown in most places, and because of its life, can store about 1,540 pounds of CO2.
Cherries grow best in regions with cool summers, so they’re a good choice for areas farther north.
The Cherry Tree is a good tree for carbon capture. It can grow to between 20 and 30 meters, growing very quickly. It does best in temperate climates and prefers moist soil, but it will grow well even in dry soil, and absorbs about 1,000 pounds of CO2 over it’s lifespan.
Maples are among the most ubiquitous trees in North America and include silver maple, red maple, sugar maple, Norway maple, and Japanese Maple Tree.
Maple trees absorb about 22 pounds of carbon dioxide each year, meaning that they can grab 2,200 to 3,000 pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere, depending on how long they live.
Does Forest Management Matter?
Forests provide more than just protection from natural disasters and carbon sequestration. They protect water quality, provide habitat for wildlife, clean the air and give us a place to hike, bike, hunt, and fish.
Forest management is the process by which humans control and care for forests. You can use the Species Calculator to help you find out how much carbon a tree captures, based on it’s size, and it will help you in forest management.
Forest management18 is the practice of maintaining forests through harvesting, planting, and replanting. There are many things to consider in forest management, including what trees should be planted and who should regulate these efforts.
You can also participate in efforts to use trees for carbon capture as part of a comprehensive strategy for addressing climate change.
Planting Trees in Places Where They Never Existed Before
Forest management is designed to ensure that afforestation programs consider the risks of planting trees where no trees existed before. The new trees will not have any natural defenses against pests or fires. In addition, they will not provide shelter for wildlife species such as birds or animals that live in the forest canopy.
This is why afforestation programs can be dangerous. When a species in introduced where it didn’t exist before, the risks of invasive dangers is magnified.
Different species of trees need to be planted in the right areas. When planting trees where no trees existed before, one must consider the following factors;
- Soil Type – Forests are only sustainable in certain soil types. Growing on the wrong kind of soil will result in plant death, harming the environment and being frustrating and costly for all involved.
- Topography – Different species of trees thrive in different altitudes and topographical locations. Forest management ensures that afforestation programs consider other types of topography and plant accordingly.
- Climate – Most tree species can survive without human assistance; however, they all need a specific environment to thrive. The environment needs to be considered when planting trees in different locations; otherwise, they will not flourish.
- Wind Patterns – Wind is a natural occurrence that can help or harm growing forests depending on its direction and frequency. Forest management ensures afforestation programs take into account wind patterns and plant accordingly to ensure maximum plant survival rates.
Many environmentalists argue that planting only native species in their natural habitat is the way to help reduce climate change.
The Dangers of Replacing Old Growth Forests
You can avoid some pitfalls when replacing old-growth forests.19 The risks emanating from old-growth forests are complex and dynamic ecosystems. Therefore, replanting them can be challenging. It’s essential to consider diseases and pests, native species, soil conditions, trees’ capacity to re-establish in the area, the natural disturbance cycle, and how it can affect new growth.
The expectation that new forest plantations can maintain biodiversity and ecological functions at the same level as the old-growth forest is often unfounded. The arrival of new species is an essential part of old-growth forest dynamics. Frequent disturbances by fire and wind create gaps in the canopy, which allow small tree species to grow up and eventually replace the older trees.9
Plantations typically have a dense uniform canopy with no gaps, preventing understory vegetation development.
When replacing old-growth forests, there are a few dangers to avoid. The risks emanate from:
- The soil is not healthy. The original forest may have removed the nutrients from the earth.
- Invasive plants and animals replace the old-growth forest. These species may be toxic to the new trees you plant.
- The new trees are susceptible to diseases. They will suffer more because they are not adapted to the environment they were placed in.
The only way to effectively replace forests that were cut and cleared is to use native seeds and species that have survived.
The Root of the Matter
One of the most important and transformative things you can do today is to understand how much carbon a tree captures; since trees are an excellent means of carbon capture, and if we start planting more trees and protecting our existing forests, we can make huge positive changes to the climate. So, how much carbon does a tree capture… plenty, if the trees are allowed to flourish and do the job nature intended.
Frequently Asked Questions About How Much Carbon Emissions Does a Tree Capture
How Much Carbon Does a Tree Offset?
How Much Carbon Does 1 Acre Tree Absorb?
One acre of forest can absorb 4.5 to 40.7 tons of carbon dioxide and produce four tons of oxygen. The capture is enough to offset the annual carbon emissions produced by driving your car 26,000 miles.4
How Much Carbon Is Sequestered by a Tree?
A single mature tree will sequester about 48 pounds (0.006 metric tons) of carbon dioxide per year and store 100 pounds (0.045 metric tons) over its lifetime.3
How Much CO2 Does a Tree Absorb in a Day?
One mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at 68.5 grams of CO2 per day! That’s why planting trees near where you live or work is important for reducing pollution from cars, factories, and power plants.4
How Much Carbon Does an Acre of Trees Absorb?
An acre of trees can absorb up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year based on a calculation that one average tree absorbs 48 pounds of CO2.8
How Much CO2 Does a Tree Absorb in Kg?
The amount will depend on different factors such as species, age, soil type, etc. A mature tree will absorb 21.77 kg of CO2 per year.9
How Much Carbon Dioxide Does a Plant Absorb in a Day?
The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by a plant depends on many factors, including the plant species, size, health, etc. An average plant absorbs 0.0000019 kg of CO2 daily.9
How Much Carbon Does a Tree Absorb per Year?
Depending on the species and size, a tree can store (on average) about 50 pounds of carbon emissions every year.
How Many Trees to Offset 1 Ton of CO2 per Year?
It takes about 40 trees to offset one ton of carbon emissions every year.
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21Vitor Monthay. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/EkEdHarUPTs>
22Gerald Simon. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/black-pine-pine-pinus-nigra-conifer-2303717/>
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25Photos by Denise Davis