By Jeremy van Loon
Farmers willing to plant trees to absorb carbon dioxide from industrial pollutants as well as provide alternative sources of fuel are new potential allies in the fight against greenhouse-gas emissions.
A study from the World Agroforestry Center in Nairobi, the first to assess global tree coverage on farmland using satellite imagery, said more farmers need to understand the economic benefits of planting trees. Almost half of the world’s total farmland has at least 10 percent tree-cover, researchers say.
Cutting down trees and letting them rot or burn accounts for about a fifth of the greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming, according to the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change. In December, more than 180 countries will meet in Copenhagen to work on measures including slowing deforestation and land management in a climate-change treaty.
Farmers are planting trees for a source of fruit and nuts, fuel from wood and wind breaks, with the additional benefit of capturing carbon-dioxide gas that contributes to warming weather across the globe. Trees draw CO2 from the air, using it to grow, then store the carbon in their leaves and wood.
“If planted systematically on farms, trees could improve the resiliency of farmers by providing them with food and income,” said Tony Simons, deputy director-general of the World Agroforestry Center. “When crops and livestock fail, trees often withstand drought conditions and allow people to hold over until the next season.”