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Tundra Treeline

Use global warming to stop global warming.
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With recent climate-change, the zone at which any given genus of trees will flourish has moved towards the poles. So a species of pine, say that flourished at 45-55degN, is now happy at 48-60degN.

The idea is to find the best cold-weather, carbon-sequestering growths, and transplant them as far north as they will go, into the tundra.

Sterilize them first if they're non-native species, to avoid future complications.

Start superseeding starting at the top and don't stop. When the greenhouse effect lessens, the trees freeze and die, but they've done their job.

Note that there should be a "barren band" in between the new growth and the old "treeline" to keep the ecosystem as fauna free as possible.

FlyingToaster, Dec 10 2007

eurasia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasia
for the continental part of the discussion [mylodon, Dec 13 2007]

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       //Sterilize them first if they're non-native species.// I'm not sure if it's possible to castrate a sequioiaia.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 10 2007

       Sequoias aren't particularly good at carbon-sequestration, nor do they flourish in an arctic environment. Some northern species of bamboo on the other hand...
FlyingToaster, Dec 10 2007

       I've read that afforestation of the far north is likely to be counterproductive, because the benefit of the carbon sequestration is more than cancelled out by the reduced albedo. (A snowy plain is whiter than a snowy forest, so it reflects more solar heat and absorbs less).   

       To avoid this effect, you need to put your carbon sinks in latitudes without much snow.
pertinax, Dec 12 2007

       //afforestation of the far north is likely to be counterproductive//   

       Making wood out of CO2 takes energy, specifically the chlorophyll absorption part of the spectrum. That's a *good* thing; the energy is *not* used to warm the globe, in fact it's taking away the stuff that is.   

       But I'm sure the process isn't perfect, so the question is...   

       How much more heat is transferred to the air/ground for an acre of trees as opposed to an acre of snow.   

       Even then, they're still sucking the CO2 out of the atmosphere; perhaps the temporary extra heat is worth it in the longer run.   

       (Warning: I'll stand on any soapbox I see laying around, I'm *not* a scientist, though I like to play one on the Internet)
FlyingToaster, Dec 12 2007

       //Tropical areas have far higher carrying capacity//   

       True: that's why there's already trees there, or man-made barren areas whose owners are loath to give up.   

       //hardwoods are a much denser accretion of carbon than the wood of conifers//   

       I was surprised when I did a little research on this last year to find that evergreens don't grow any further into northern latitudes than deciduous trees
FlyingToaster, Dec 12 2007

       However, the evergreens might act a little faster to establish some anti-erosion and soil enrichment. I'm also wondering how far north switchgrass grows?   

       Alternatively, what if we were to do some coastline terraforming of northern Africa? Is there some Sahara expansion reversal potential there?
RayfordSteele, May 22 2008

why "alternatively" ? why not "as well as..."
FlyingToaster, May 23 2008

       // carbon sequestration is more than cancelled out by the reduced albedo.//
So, we plant silver birch.
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Sep 23 2008

       //I'm not sure if it's possible to castrate a sequioiaia.//
some funguses inhibit tree reproduction.

       //growth in tundra areas is painfully slow//
The treeline (all treelines) will slowly be moving northward due to global warming, but the idea of this post is to beat it to the punch in the "virgin land" of the sub-arctic instead of waiting for all those seeds to travel all those hundreds of miles.
FlyingToaster, Sep 23 2008

       ////I'm not sure if it's possible to castrate a sequioiaia.// some funguses inhibit tree reproduction.//   

       So, sequoias + castration = sequestration. All makes sense now.
MaxwellBuchanan, Sep 23 2008

... [marked-for-tagline]
FlyingToaster, Sep 23 2008

       My talk radio station has a similar idea in a political parody commercial they're particularly proud of:   

       Plant trees on the Mexican border. Stops global warming, keeps the border secure! Win win.
Bcrosby, Sep 24 2008

       How long can a tree last without light?   

       Even with the long summers, the sun is just skating across the horizon. Trees not on the edge of a forest won't see the light of day.
mylodon, Sep 24 2008

       Bamboo is more effective at carbon sequestering than any kind of tree, and it grows much faster too.
ModernDivo, Sep 24 2008

       Not above the arctic circle it doesn't.
mylodon, Sep 24 2008

       [Flyingtoaster] -- barren band? What? Have you read nothing about ANWR? It is the Serengeti of the north!
mylodon, Sep 24 2008

       actually there is a high latitude strain of bamboo... not sure if it shares all the other properties of its more temperate brethren. § x1
FlyingToaster, Sep 24 2008

       When you drive the Dalton Highway in Alaska (to the Arctic Ocean), the trees get smaller and smaller. Until you get to the last decent-sized one and it has a sign that says, "Northernmost Spruce Tree". Someone has chopped it with an axe enough to kill it, so, I suppose they should move the sign south a little bit. My apologies to the rest of the world for the behavior of some of my fellow Alaskans.   

       I too have read of calculations that the already observed northern movement of the treeline ultimately captures more heat. Because in the north, the sun is very low angle and a vertical object captures the visible light and radiants infrared which melts the snow around the tree. More bare ground, fewer days of snowcover = lower albedo = more capture of sunlight as heat.   

       Also, trees grow when and where they will just about as soon as possible. We used to think a particular species needed X days over 50F/10C. More recently, it was found that photosynthesis only occurs in a VERY narrow band of temperature, Like 70F/21C to 72F/22C. Leaves can their angle, shading of lower leaves, evaporation, etc to stay in that tight range.   

       Yes, you can jump-start the process by a few years. But until the growing season lengthens significantly, little growth and little sequestration will be taking place.
DavidinKenai, Jan 18 2009

       hi [DK] there's a secondary purpose as well... if we put a rail line across as well then we can ship cargo "through the Northwest Passage" faster, cheaper and more ecologically sound than by water, to ships waiting on the other side... And still have a rail-line/transportation link left when the Passage (hopefully) closes back up.   

       Re: heat capture, as I've noted "lower albedo" means nothing if you're actually using up the energy. While I'm pretty sure the entire absorption spectra of your basic tree isn't directly conversion related, nonetheless a good chunk is, and that chunk is *not* putting heat into the environment and *is* taking away CO2.   

       Got any good cites for further reading ?
FlyingToaster, Jan 18 2009

       [+] I like this idea, and I think [FlyingToaster] might have a valid point...   

       Yes, planting flora at higher latitudes - (in both polar hemispheres) - would tend to decrease albedo and increase heat retention - LOCALLY; but GLOBALLY, the albedo (at least in the critical infra-red spectrum), would tend to increase as IR absorbing CO2 is sequestered.   

       The question is: which has the greater total net heat impact for Earth? The local heat retention around the tree, or the global heat reflection from less CO2 available?   

       If [FlyingToaster] is right, and the sum albedo total for Earth is greater than zero, than this might entail a new paradaigm shift in environmental thinking. It wouldn't be the first time...   

       * Welcome, [DavidinKenai] *
Wily Peyote, Jan 18 2009

       As challenging as castrating a tree might be, the real tough work comes in performing vasectomies on them.
normzone, Aug 13 2009

       If every sub-polar continent has a decent high-carbon-sequestering, cold weather tree, then sterilization is a non-issue.   

       Not saying it's easy: problems include nutrients, water availability and (lack of) light.
FlyingToaster, Aug 14 2009

       The lack of light shouldn't be a huge problem for deciduous trees, as they are only active during the season where the sun is relatively high, and present for extended periods, not during the no sun period.
MechE, Mar 03 2011


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