Washington, June 11 (ANI): A new study by researchers at the Purdue University, US, has shown that that introducing a new hybrid of the American chestnut tree would not only bring back the all-but-extinct species, but also put a dent in the amount of carbon in the Earth's atmosphere.
Douglass Jacobs, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources, found that American chestnuts grow much faster and larger than other hardwood species, allowing them to sequester more carbon than other trees over the same period.
Since American chestnut trees are more often used for high-quality hardwood products such as furniture, they hold the carbon longer than wood used for paper or other low-grade materials.
"Maintaining or increasing forest cover has been identified as an important way to slow climate change," said Jacobs.
"The American chestnut is an incredibly fast-growing tree. Generally the faster a tree grows, the more carbon it is able to sequester. And when these trees are harvested and processed, the carbon can be stored in the hardwood products for decades, maybe longer," he added.
At the beginning of the last century, the chestnut blight, caused by a fungus, rapidly spread throughout the American chestnut's natural range, which extended from southern New England and New York southwest to Alabama.
About 50 years ago, the species was nearly gone.
New efforts to hybridize remaining American chestnuts with blight-resistant Chinese chestnuts have resulted in a species that is about 94 percent American chestnut with the protection found in the Chinese species.
Jacobs said those new trees could be ready to plant in the next decade, either in existing forests or former agricultural fields that are being returned to forested land.
"We're really quite close to having a blight-resistant hybrid that can be reintroduced into eastern forests," Jacobs said.
Jacobs studied four sites in southwestern Wisconsin that were unaffected by the blight because they are so far from the tree's natural range.
He compared the American chestnut directly against black walnut and northern red oak at several different ages, and also cross-referenced his results to other studies using quaking aspen, red pine and white pine in the same region.
In each case, the American chestnut grew faster, having as much as three times more aboveground biomass than other species at the same point of development. merican chestnut also sequestered more carbon than all the others.
"Each tree has about the same percentage of its biomass made up of carbon, but the fact that the American chestnut grows faster and larger means it stores more carbon in a shorter amount of time," Jacobs said. (ANI)