The Fight Against CO2 Emissions
A Florida coastline without palm trees? While that is a hard concept to grasp, it seems that the South Florida landscape will look considerably different in the years to come. According to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar, climate change and carbon dioxide levels play a significant role in the shift to diversify the vegetation along the coast and inland. While Florida will always have their iconic palms, there are new trees on the horizon for the Sunshine State.
One Tree at a Time
Communities in South Florida are combating climate change one tree at a time. Penni Redford, the Resilience and Climate Change Manager for West Palm Beach, states that “Palm trees do not sequester carbon at the same rate as our native canopy trees and do not provide shade, cool down streets and sidewalks to help counter the urban heat island effect that canopy trees do.” With carbon dioxide levels at an all-time high, scientists are trying to find solutions to capture and safely contain atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. One way to do this is to plant trees that are great at absorbing carbon during photosynthesis.
Palm Trees Score Low
The sunny beaches of Florida are lined with picturesque palm trees that only absorb 5 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. While beautiful, these trees do not provide as much benefit as other broadleaf trees or conifers such as oaks, mahogany, pines and cedar, which can sequester more than 3,000 pounds of CO2 over their lifetime.
Are Palms Even Trees?
Some scientists are beginning to question if palm “trees” are even trees! Why is that, you may be wondering? Oddly enough, there is no universal definition that botanists, ecologists and forestry specialists agree upon for the word “tree”! The distinction between “tree” and “shrub” is not so cut and dry but somewhat subjective based on the habitat and resources available. Some individuals argue that palm trees are not really trees because they do not display secondary growth and gain thickness over the years.
Kristine Crous, a senior lecturer at Western Sydney University, explains that palms also don’t produce wood. Not producing wood means that palm trees aren’t good at storing carbon and don’t combat the amount of carbon dioxide created each year by Florida residents.
Palms and Climate Change
While palm trees are an iconic staple in Florida, these “trees” are not great at carbon sequestration. Programs in West Palm Beach and Miami Beach are beginning to mitigate the climate crisis by planting large canopy trees that can withstand hurricane winds, floods and salt spray. They are embracing the initiative to plant a variety of trees (not just palms) to combat the climate crisis; trees such as oak, ash, elm, and sycamore in place of the palm tree.
Looking Towards the Future
While planting mature trees that remove carbon dioxide is a critical component, this one action will not eliminate climate change. It is essential to look for other ways to help the environment while making a conscious mind shift to embrace CO2 reduction and sustainable energy.
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