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Name: Catherine
Status: student
Grade: other
Location: Outside U.S.
Country: New Zealand
Date: Spring 2010

What ways are available to measure carbon content that is held within trees? i already have remote sensing and measure the diameter etc of the tree but need to know a few other ways

The following might be helpful:


Anthony Brach, PhD
Missouri Botanical Garden

You will have to check the reliability of the following method, using refined charcoal as a calibrate. Burn the sample in an excess of Oxygen, so that all the carbon is burned to CO2. Then add an excess of Ca(Cl)2. Keep the system closed throughout the procedure, because water soluble calcium salts tend to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. The Ca(Cl)2 reacts with the CO2 forming Ca(CO3) which is insoluble in water. Some hints: Run the combustion in a weighed flask so that you don't have to scrape the Ca(CO3) from the flask. That transfer could be a major source of error. You want to avoid transfers as much as possible. Make sure to rinse the Ca(CO3) several times with water to be sure all the Ca(Cl)2 is washed away.

There are variations on this general method, depending upon the desired accuracy. For example, if you just burn the wood and assume that the non-combustible ash is negligible, you get a direct measure of the carbon present. Yet another variation is to weigh the tare, then ash + tare to obtain a measure of the non-combustible ash. If you search the term "carbon analysis wood" you will find that the accurate analysis for carbon in wood is not an easy analysis.

Vince Calder

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