The Carbon community started by asking a simple question: ‘How do you plant trees to maximize carbon recovery from the air?’ It turned out that the answer is not simple – in discussion with leading environmental scientists it became clear that we don’t really know the answer.
It also became clear that environmental scientists have carbon sequestration projects running successfully in the lab, but there’s great difficulty in scaling these up with field trials. There is a chronic shortage of test sites where environmental scientists can run field trials, without which promising techniques languish in the lab, and don’t get deployed at scale.
As a result, the Carbon Community created a facility at The Glandwr Forest to enable environmental scientists to test out the latest science on a large scale. This test grid comprises 72 test cells across a 28-acre part of the Glandwr Forest containing more than 25,000 trees. This is by far the largest and most comprehensive carbon sequestration study in the UK, and of global significance. From discussions with scientists for forest researchers, we expect this facility to be used for many scientific studies for decades to come. Much of environmental science relies on consistent, careful measurements over time, and the charity structure ensures that this facility will be there for generations to come.
The Carbon Community is guided by its Scientific Advisory Board which is constituted from and international panel of some of the world’s leading environmental scientists.
We work closely with many organizations, including Universities, research institutions, environmental charities and local and national Government.
Our first carbon sequestration study partners are:
ETH Zürich Crowther Lab
Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation at the University of Sheffield
The Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London
In addition there is a separate study focused on tree survival being conducted by Bangor University.
We work closely with Swansea University, with material jointly developed incorporated into undergraduate study modules and field trips.
Image credit: Imperial College and Forest Research, 2020
In a mature forest, more than 75% of the carbon is stored below ground in the roots and soil. This is one of the primary reasons why we need to study the science of carbon sequestration – to measure carbon both in the tree and in the ground as a whole, and test different nature-based techniques of accelerating these processes. The process of storing carbon in the ground is complex, and relies on biodiversity and collaboration between tree and fungi in the soil. Soil provides nutrients and water essential for trees to survive and thrive. Soil is formed in several different ways: rocks break down through the processes of weathering releasing minerals into the soil. Fungi use acids to accelerate this process, and also break down dead wood and surface litter such as dead animals. This locks both minerals and carbon into the soil, which the fungi share with trees and plants, in return for sugars which the plants generate through photosynthesis. This complex and collaborative relationship between the tree above ground, and the essential biodiversity belowground illustrates why we cannot look solely at the tree or the soil in isolation: we need to look at tree and soil together.