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How Much Oxygen Does A Tree Produce

by Lyndon Langley
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How Much Oxygen Does A Tree Produce

How Much Oxygen Does A Tree Produce

Trees are nature’s most effective carbon dioxide scrubbers. The world’s forests capture an estimated 1 billion tons of CO2 every year. Trees also release oxygen into the atmosphere as part of their natural lifecycle. On average, one tree produces nearly 260 pounds (120 kilograms) of oxygen each year. That means that two mature trees could produce enough oxygen to sustain a family of four in an urban environment. If you’re wondering how much oxygen your house consumes, it turns out that a single room may consume up to 10 percent of its annual supply [sources: EPA; University of Georgia].
The amount of oxygen produced by plants varies widely depending on species and environmental conditions. For example, poplar trees absorb more than 100 times more O2 than oak trees. In general, however, deciduous trees like beech, elm and maple have greater photosynthetic capacity than evergreens such as cypress or pine. Evergreen conifers like pines and firs produce less oxygen because they don’t lose their leaves throughout the winter. They instead store carbohydrates during this time so that when spring comes around, they have the energy needed to grow new foliage.
Oxygen isn’t distributed evenly across Earth’s surface. It is abundant at high elevations, where air contains about 21 percent more oxygen, but becomes scarce closer to sea level. In fact, there are some places along the coast where the concentration of oxygen drops below 15 percent — not enough to sustain life. This occurs when water from rivers, oceans and bays mixes with seawater. As these waters mix, they strip away any remaining oxygen, leaving behind nitrogen-rich bottom sediment. When scientists drill down beneath the ocean floor, they find layers of dead marine organisms called “depressions” that lack oxygen. These depressions are typically no deeper than 30 feet (9 meters). Above them is what’s known as the oxycline layer, which has a depth of about 400 feet (122 meters). There, the pressure of the overlying water prevents even small particles of oxygen from entering the sediments.
Even though oxygen levels vary dramatically among regions, we depend upon it everywhere. Without it, humans wouldn’t survive. But how does our breathable air get into our lungs? Find out next.
Anatomy of Air
We breathe primarily through our nose. Our nostrils contain millions of tiny hairs that react to microscopic amounts of atmospheric gases. Some types of cells inside the nasal cavity respond to chemicals released by nerve endings in the nose. Others detect changes in barometric pressure caused by altitude differences above sea level. Still others are sensitive to nitric oxide, a gas molecule associated with healthy blood flow and erectile dysfunction. Nitric oxide enters the body’s bloodstream after reacting with haemoglobin molecules, which transport oxygen throughout the body.
When we inhale, we expand our chest. This action increases the volume of air passing into our lungs. During exhalation, we contract our chests and pull air back toward our mouths. Because oxygen is heavier than other gases, it sinks downward within the air stream. At lower altitudes, oxygen is almost completely depleted before reaching the ground.
To make matters worse, pollution contributes to the depletion of oxygen near large cities. While outdoor air pollution causes thousands of premature deaths worldwide each year, indoor air pollutants pose additional health risks. Pollutants emitted indoors include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are found in paints, solvents, glues, adhesives and cleaning products. VOCs are particularly harmful to children, since their developing bodies and brains are more susceptible to chemical toxins. In addition to producing ozone, which forms smog, VOCs contribute to global warming by releasing heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
In recent years, researchers have developed ways to remove contaminants from indoor air. Indoor air purifiers use ultraviolet light, charcoal filters or activated carbon to kill bacteria, viruses, mold spores and dust mites. Other devices, including whole-house fans, dehumidifiers and humidifiers, work together to maintain comfortable humidity levels while reducing moisture-related illnesses. To learn more about the role of oxygen in human biology, take a look at the links on the following page.
Humans need oxygen to live, but plants don’t need us. We harvest oxygen in order to convert sunlight into usable energy. Plants do not require this energy, but they do benefit from having a way to access carbon and water resources. Photosynthesis takes place when chloroplasts transfer electrons from hydrogen atoms in water to carbon dioxide, creating glucose. Glucose acts as fuel for plant growth.

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