By Johnny Wood
Scientists are exploring whether coniferous trees might help to counter the effects of global warming.
Deep in Sweden’s spruce forests researchers from Lund University are studying the cooling qualities of organic compounds called terpenes, which are abundant in conifer resin and also give spruce, fir and pine trees their distinctive scent.
When released into the atmosphere, these tiny particles interact with moisture to help form clouds that reflect sunlight away from the planet’s surface.
Forests cover nearly 70% of Sweden and play a unique role in influencing climate. Trees both absorb harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and emit reactive gases that form secondary organic aerosol particles (SOAs). It is the abundance of these airborne particles that help sunlight-blocking clouds to form.
Commercially managed conifers, which are widespread in Nordic nations, produce a high concentration of SOAs compared to many other tree types. The Swedish research aims to improve scientists’ understanding of how these particles affect the climate, and whether planting more forests might have a cooling effect.
Adam Kristensson, one of the scientists conducting the study told Reuters: “It depends on where the forest is growing and what type of forest it is. In the southern parts of the world the trees are better at counteracting global warming than far up in the north.”
While this may sound like good news for people living in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s important to note that many countries have suffered devastating deforestation.