Paper Finds Key Role for Nitrogen Fixing Trees to Capturing Carbon

Photo by Marcos Guerra, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Princeton University recently published a paper on carbon fixation by legume trees. It found that growing nitrogen fixing trees, or legumes, in recovering or new forests improved the forest growth and carbon storage capacity.

The increase in carbon storage capacity occurs because the nitrogen fixing trees provide their neighbor trees with that key nutrient that is important for tree growth. According to the study, legume species of trees took up carbon up to nine times faster than other species. They also accumulated as much as 40% of the carbon of a fully formed forest after only 12 years.

There are two findings that are important for our own work.

The first is that having legume trees as part of a reforestation project accelerates the growth of other trees in the stand; an important benefit for managed timber plantations. We plant Rosewood (dalbergia retusa), a leguminous species, throughout our 25 hectares of mixed species plantation.

Secondly, the trees sequester and store more carbon because they’re growing quicker. That is very important for those of us concerned with climate change and the need to slow and stop the CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

We hope more research is done in this area and look forward to maybe even participating in it in the future. Learn more about the tropical woods we’re growing.