Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Living Carbon

New ‘photosynthesis-enhanced’ trees for carbon storage


The root systems are designed to grow in depleted soils rich in heavy metals

Spotted: Humans are polluting the planet faster than naturally occurring ecosystems can clean it. Rather than create a new process for removing that excess carbon, biotechnology company Living Carbon decided to improve on something that already works – trees. Three years of research and development resulted in a genetically modified hybrid poplar tree that grows faster and sequesters more carbon dioxide than trees can on their own. 

The company’s goal is to rebalance the world’s ecosystems by working alongside naturally occurring processes. The hybrid tree grows 30 to 50 per cent more biomass than regular trees, which allows the new versions to sequester up to 27 per cent more carbon in each tree. Additionally, the root systems of the enhanced trees are specifically designed to thrive in heavily polluted soils, like in those saturated by metals from mining and other industry operations. 

In tests, the hybrid trees show greater resilience to higher temperatures and didn’t need intensive soil preparation before planting. Following a series A round of funding that raised $21 million (around €19.3 million), the company’s goal is to plant four million seedlings by the spring of 2024.  

By focusing on land that is already degraded or abandoned, such as farms and mines, the project could double the number of trees planted every year between 2023 and 2050, achieving a 1.66 per cent reduction of 2021’s global greenhouse gas emissions.  

Making better use of forests requires improved data collection methods, and Springwise has spotted AI and satellites, and LiDAR and computer vision used to gain deeper understanding of where trees are located, how many there are and in what condition they are in.

Written By: Keely Khoury




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