The alchemy of photosynthesis
05.17.2012

The arrival of spring (finally!) reminds us of the restorative power of nature, powered by what some have described as the alchemy of photosynthesis. Practically overnight, barren plants and trees have exploded hysterically into a thousand or more shades of green.

Considered the medieval precursor to modern-day scientists, alchemists attempted to turn base metals such as lead or copper into gold or silver, as well as invent an elixir of life that could confer youth and immortality. Though doomed to failure, such efforts did open the way to the scientific method.

For the non-scientists among us, the appearance of spring is a near-miraculous transmutation. But for those educated in the natural sciences, spring is the inevitable result of plant biology.

In photosynthesis, green trees and plants use solar energy to transform water, atmospheric carbon dioxide and minerals into organic compounds needed for growth, releasing oxygen in the process. Trees continue to store significant amounts of solid carbon when they are old. Moreover, wood products continue to store carbon throughout their useful lives.

Photosynthesis is one of the most researched topics on OFRI's website. You can learn more about it and carbon storage from OFRI's fact sheets and video Forest Fact Breaks.

Fresh air. Clean water. Fish and wildlife habitat. Forest products. Stored carbon.

The benefits of photosynthesis are so remarkable that if such a system had not existed already, we would have had to invent it.

- Paul Barnum
Executive Director

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