Each second the Earth’s atmosphere is crammed with wasted carbon dioxide from human activities on the planet. Humans, animals, motorized vehicles and factories around the whole world emit excessive carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) into the Earth’s atmosphere, which has triggered global warming and changes in the environment. In order to reduce the concentrations of this greenhouse gas in the Earth’s atmosphere, besides by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, re-absorption of the greenhouse gas is also needed.
Each plant, both forestry plants and oil palm plants, has the ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Through plant photosynthesis, the existing carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere will be absorbed.
Through a plant’s metabolism, carbon dioxide is divided into carbon and oxygen. The carbon is processed and changed into parts of the plants (roots, stems and leaves).
Meanwhile, the oxygen is discharged into the atmosphere for animal life to breathe. Because plants have the ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produce oxygen for the atmosphere in return, green plants, including oil palms, are called as the “lungs” of the ecosystem (Figure).
If oil palm plantations and forests are compared (Table ), each ha of oil palm plantation absorbs a net 64 tons of carbon dioxide each year and produces about 18 tons of oxygen.
Table: Carbon dioxide absorption and oxygen production of oil palm plantations and tropical forests
|Indicators||Tropical Forest||Oil Palm Plantation|
|Gross assimilation (tons CO2/ha/year)||163.5||161.0|
|Total respiration (ton CO2/ha/year)||121.1||96.5|
|Net assimilation (tons CO2/ha/year)||42.4||64.5|
|Oxygen production (O2) (tons O2/ha/year)||7.09||18.70|
Source: Henson (1999). PPKS (2004. 2005)
Meanwhile, a forest’s net absorption amounts to about 42 tons of carbon dioxide each year and it produces about 7 tons of oxygen. Therefore, oil palm plantations are even superior to forests when it comes to absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and producing oxygen for the Earth.