Friday, February 28, 2014

That fresh pine smell might be good for the planet...

When I arrive to work in the morning, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the fragrant scent of pine. The hills around my college are covered with ponderosa pine trees, and the sweet, earthy odor lingers on the morning breeze. The smell makes me feel happy; I associate it with summertime, and camping with my family, and long hikes in the mountains.

But it turns out that piney smell might have another positive impact – it might be helping control climate change.

An international team of scientists have discovered a way to predict how the odor, formed from volatile organic compounds, will react with oxygen over the forest canopy to form aerosols – light- and heat-reflecting clouds of volatilized chemicals. These aerosols, which are airborne particles made up of at least some level of solid matter, can help cool the atmosphere over forests.

The scientists who conducted the study predicted that, as the climate continues to warm, photosynthesis in the forest will speed up and create even more boreal aerosols. Don’t get too excited, though – forests that are stressed from drought or excess heat can have decreased capacity for aerosol creation.

The bottom line, then, is that forests are good for our planet. They take in carbon dioxide, breathe out life-giving oxygen, help trap atmospheric pollution, and now scientists have proved a way that they may even hold the key for slowing down climate change. 

I think I’ll go hug a tree.

Meanwhile, there are charitable organizations that are working to help save and protect the earth’s forests. The organizations I have listed have been ranked as five-star charities by, and the bulk of their finances go to support their programs, not administration.

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