Planting conifers to replace broadleaved forests is contributing to climate change, even when tree coverage increases, reports a new study published in the journal Science.
Commercially desirable trees - such as Scot pines, Norway spruce and beech - absorb more heat than light-green broadleaf trees, such as oak, maple and birch.
"It's not all about carbon," lead author Kim Naudts of France's Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, told Reuters. "Two and a half centuries of forest management in Europe have not cooled the climate."
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Deciduous trees do a better job of reflecting light than evergreens, but reforestation favors fast-growing conifers. In Europe 85 percent of forests were managed by humans as of 2010, the study reports.
Since 1850, the number of broadleaf trees has decreased by about 170,000 square miles (436,000 kilometers).
The conversion to conifers has reduced the amount of solar energy reflected back into space, say the authors, accelerating climate change rather than mitigating it even as the overall tree coverage has increased in the last two and a half centuries.
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The researchers argue warming should be considered in addition to simply replacing the same land area, to reduce the impact on Earth's climate.
The study was produced by France's Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement and published in the journal Science.