Wood the Ultimate Carbon Storage?

Wood is carbon captured from the atmosphere. In fact, when you lift up a piece of wood furniture, roughly half of the weight you feel is carbon.

Chances are, if you look around, you can see something made of wood. Used in products and structures everywhere, wood is a material that we trust to last a long time. But how long can wood last? The answer is really, really long.

Schöningen Spears

The oldest known wooden artefacts in existence are estimated to be about 400,000 years old. The Schöningen Spears are a set of Spruce and Pine throwing spears that were used to hunt big game animals in the Palaeolithic Age. Discovered in Germany on the shores of what once was a lake, the wood spears were preserved by an airtight covering of mud and organic materials.

Wooden thrusting spear (replica) from site in Schoningen, Germany.  Date:  about 400,000 years old.

Shigir Idol

The oldest wooden sculpture in the world is 11,000 years old. The Shigir Idol was discovered in a bog in Russia at a depth of 4 meters (13 ft). It was carved out of phytoncidic Larch. Phytoncides are chemicals produced by the tree that prevent it from rotting or being eaten by insects.

wood-carbon-storage-carving

Hōryū-ji

Japan’s Hōryū-ji, the Buddhist Temple of the Flourishing Law, is one of the oldest wooden buildings in the world. At its base is enshrined what is believed to be a fragment of one of Buddha’s bones. The timber used in the center pillar of its pagoda is estimated to have been felled in 594 AD. After nearly 1,500 years, it still stands tall.

wood-carbon-storage-building

The next time you see something made of wood… a wooden spoon, a piece of furniture… pick it up. Think about the carbon captured and stored within that accounts for half its weight. Where did that captured carbon originate? A volcanic eruption? An airplane’s exhaust? How long will that carbon stay stored in that wood? A thousand years? 11,000 years like the Shigir Idol? 400,000 years like the Schöningen Spears?

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