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Name: Naomi
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A normal battle about cutting trees down brought a question into our heads. What is the difference in oxygen production of trees vs grass or a bush w/ many leaves on it? Why are trees such a battle when one tree could be replaced by thousands of pieces of grass?

Generally, forests have higher primary productivity (and associated O2 production) than grasslands:


Anthony Brach Ph.D.

Dear Naomi,

You have raised several interesting points with your questions. If you want to determine oxygen production differences, the answer is found in the total amount of green surface area of a tree (all of the leaves) versus a bush (all of the leaves and green stems) versus a patch of grass (all of the blades).

So, if you are interested only in the efficiency of a plant to produce oxygen, you should look at the individual plant and ask what proportion of the plant is producing oxygen. The grass is producing oxygen in 100% of its leaf blade while the bush and tree are producing much less (the trunk and nongreen stems will produce no oxygen).

However, if you are interested in the total amount of oxygen produced in each plant, I would guess that the area of leaves produced by a tree is greater than the area of grass blades found in the shadow of the tree.

However, if you look at a tree, bush or grass in a forest, you can find a tree with some bushes and grass underneath. So, if you calculate how much oxygen is produced in a patch of land, it will be higher if a tree is there with some bushes and grass than if there is only one tree, several bushes or a lawn of grass.

Jim Tokuhisa, Ph.D.

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