Monday, March 14, 2011

Cloning Giant Trees

The latest variation on reforestation entails planting genetic copies of the world's largest trees to maximize terrestrial carbon sequestration. Scientists with the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive have begun collecting genetic material from forest giants such as redwoods and sequoias, and cloning these trees for the purpose of wide-scale propagation. Working on the premise that bigger trees store more carbon, the organization aims to clone 200 tree varieties with the highest potential for carbon reduction. So far the group has produced copies of more than 60 species.

The science is straightforward and the goal laudable, but it is unclear how these cloned giants will be cultivated to the extent necessary to make a meaningful impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. The Archive intends to sell trees, but short of robust and accessible carbon markets or major reforestation/afforestation projects, it is difficult to see how conventional sales would achieve significant carbon reductions. Regardless, at the very least the group is creating an invaluable genetic library of the planet's largest living things.

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