C in the Trees: Junk in the trunks

By professor blue on
image of a measuring tape around a tree

how does a cheeseburger measure up

Hug a tree and what do you get?  Splinters from the bark?  A happy feeling?  Maybe!

Carbon storage in trees

If you do decide to hug a tree while holding a Tree-Tape, you can get both the happy feeling of splinters and also a measurement of how much carbon the tree is removing from the atmosphere!  Bonus!

What is carbon?

Carbon is an element that is present in every living thing.  Scientists call Carbon “C”.  Think of it this way: Your parents named you James, but call you Jim.  Or Gertrude but call you Trudy.  Jim, James, Gertrude, Trudy, Carbon, C, right?  It’s science’s way of saying, “Howdy kids.”

When C gets changed into a gas state, it becomes carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide is also known as CO2.  Scientists believe that we humans are putting too much CO2 in the atmosphere by changing the state of C from things like coal and petroleum, burning it to produce electricity and power cars, planes, and so on, and releasing the CO2 into the atmosphere.

So many activities create CO2. Making cheeseburgers. Eating candy bars. They require carbon to be burnt and released, because so much effort is required to make candy, make a burger.

CO2 and C are necessary to live. But too much CO2 is a waste. It’s trouble!
Here is an interactive map to see more about CO2 on the planet:

http://www.breathingearth.net/

But trees, ah trees!  Trees use photosynthesis to take CO2 out of the atmosphere.  They produce oxygen as their waste gas, which is no waste for us.  But they store C in their trunks.  There it stays until something like a forest fire burns the tree, and then C is released back into the atmosphere as CO2.

Impress the other kids. Use the tree tape to measure how much CO2 that tree in your back yard balances out the C that is used to make a cheeseburger. Tell them, “I am conducting a very important study and need to get data about the junk in the trunks, er, I mean carbon storage in trees.”

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