Resurrecting a Legendary Giant of the Forest that can Absorb Nearly Every American’s Carbon Footprint

The American Chestnut tree was once the dominate "sequoia" of the Eastern US. But, tragically, the great tree succumbed to a fungus (or blight) that wiped out 99.9 percent of them. Billions of these...
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The American Chestnut tree was once the dominate “sequoia” of the Eastern US. But, tragically, the great tree succumbed to a fungus (or blight) that wiped out 99.9 percent of them. Billions of these giants were gone from the landscape in less than fifty years. In fact, their impact on the forest was so dramatic that those who can remember the eastern forests before the blight say that the tree’s disappearance actually changed the look of the landscape.

An impressive history

This tree was so important for the building of America that it’s not understatement to call it “the tree that built the nation”. Really. It’s almost a tree of unimaginable usefulness. It reaches heights of over 150 feet and is a fast grower. The great tree’s wood is nearly rot proof and built many of the wood ships of the 18th and 19th century. It was used in buildings, as well. In fact one of the reason many ancient wood structure of the Colonial period still exist is because chestnut wood was used in their construction

What’s going on now

The US Forest Service is partnering with the American Chestnut Foundation in Asheville, NC to plant the new species of the tree that was cross breed with the Chinese Chestnut, which has a natural resistant to the fungus. The new American Chestnut is 98 percent genetically the original. The oldest plantings are now in their sixth year and have shown impressive resistance to the blight. They are now being planted in the tens of thousands on national forests and the seedlings of these blight resistant trees are now in their third year and showing no vulnerability to the blight.

What this will mean for the nation and climate change

Because the American Chestnut can absorb over five times the amount of carbon as an oak tree, and the fact that it grows nearly twice as fast, its potential to store carbon for centuries in its structure and centuries more in the wood products built from it, means we are on the brink of reducing the carbon footprint of nearly every American within this century.

I know this sounds too incredible to believe, but math doesn’t lie. It is estimated by many scientists that if everyone in this country planted one hundred trees in their life time, with the prevalence of existing tree stock, they would nearly eliminate their carbon foot print! The number of trees that need to be planted is reduced by nearly 3/4 when you factor in the American Chestnut. If the original range of the American Chestnut were re-established, something like 8 billion trees, by the close of this century we will have reduced every American’s carbon footprint by over 90 percent.

This, of course, will take a huge commitment by the local, state and federal land managing organizations, but its not impossible. So even if the current stock of chestnut trees proves to be a disappointment–which looks highly unlikely at this point–the message is clear: Planting trees, and lots of them, is mother nature’s carbon storage “invention” that is cheap, available and everyone can do it!

Picture Worth a Billion Trees

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