Florida is planning to replace its iconic palm trees with the state’s native canopy trees as a way to mitigate the climate crisis.
The process will, of course, not take place overnight but will happen gradually in time. And the reason why communities in South Florida are considering such measures is concerns about climate change.
Palm trees naturally sequester less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than their native counterparts. Further benefits of canopy trees include the shade they provide, as well as their ability to cool down streets and sidewalks and repel the urban heat island effect.
This form of removing CO2 from the air is known as terrestrial sequestration and essentially involves planting trees, which is a natural means of pulling carbon emissions from the air.
As is well known and has been demonstrated by numerous studies, such as this one from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), we are at an unprecedented point in the last 800,000 years of record concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere – CO2 that must be removed.
And palm trees are least effective for this task.
However, chopping them is not a solution either, and instead, several programs in South Florida have taken it upon themselves to gradually replace palm trees by planting other tree species that are better equipped to help address the climate crisis and handle the changing climate conditions.
Over time, the aim will be to replace most of the palm tree population with canopy trees so that by 2050, palm trees make up some 25% of the total public tree population, although that, too, is not a universal remedy.
Not all tree species are the same and not all trees within the same species are the same either. Studies have shown that older trees sequester larger quantities of CO2 than younger trees, so age is another important factor in this matter, where preserving existing trees is just as important as planting new ones.