Research Outline

Wildlife Sheltering Capacity of a Single Tree (2)


To find the type and the average number of specimens (e.g., 400 butterflies not 400 butterfly species) that a single tree can support. Alternatively, find the type and the average number of specimens in terms of CO2 offset (i.e., how much can planting a single tree offset CO2 emissions). Exclude complementary information such as how many pounds of CO2 a tree offset or the number of bacteria or fungus and focus only on animals and/or insects. This information will be used in a CO2 offset calculator indicating that if a person spends $35 on their gas bill, by offsetting their gas, they could have saved 300 birds, 60,000 caterpillars, and 10,000 butterflies, etc.

Early Findings

Results of Initial Research

  • Our initial research indicates that the number of specimens supported by a tree is not immediately available.
  • An extensive review of research studies (some of which can be found here, here, and here), reports, blogs, and articles mostly provide the total number of species supported by different types of trees, in different geographies.
  • Given the lack of information on the number and type of specimens, we explored the alternative research path to determine how much can planting a single tree offset CO2 emissions.

Planting Trees to Offset CO2 Emissions

  • The Forestry Commission’s Woodland Carbon Code provides insights into the amount of carbon a tree can fix in different conditions and locations.
  • Co2living used this information to calculate the estimated amount of carbon a native tree (planted in the Highlands of Scotland) can fix over a period of 100 years. According to their estimates, a single native tree can fix nearly 0.2 tonnes of CO2.
  • This means that on average, approximately 6 trees can fix 1 tonne of CO2.
  • A single mature tree absorbs over 48 pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere per year. Per the U.S. Department of Energy's 2017 analysis, the average "American emits around 16.2 metric tons of CO2 from fossil fuels each year. At 2204 lbs per ton, that equals 35,704.8 lbs — or, approximately 744 trees just to offset 1 year's worth of impact."

Specimens Per Tree