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 Environmental Uses for Poplars


Wastewater Treatment Hybrid poplar trees are being used to reuse municipal and industrial wastewater.    The trees have been proven to effectively clean the water and often provide a cheaper alternative than building additional treatment facilities.   Poplar trees utilized for wastewater reuse in many instances will pay for themselves at harvest when the wood fiber is used for lumber, paper or fuel for bioenergy.  Broadacres consults with many utilities and small communities throughout the west to recommend appropriate poplar varieties and management techniques and to insure that their specific poplar planting is accomplishing the reuse goals and meeting state and federal requirements.   

Carbon SequestrationSix Year Old Poplar                         

Poplars are among the fastest growing tree species in North America.  They are capable of accumulating enormous amounts of wood and biomass in a relatively short period of time.   With proper care and selection of appropriate varieties, poplars can also sequester enormous amounts of carbon dioxide in a short period of time.   Wood products manufactured from poplar trees can make this sequestration permanent.    Poplars for this reason have received considerable attention as a potential tool to help combat global warming.  Broadacres Nursery received a grant from the Department of Energy in 1999 to study the sequestration of carbon by hybrid poplar trees in the Pacific Northwest. The project entails determining the amount of land available for poplar production in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington and estimating the amount of carbon that could be potentially sequestered in all of the different regions.  Biological issues addressed include screening and selecting poplar clones for growth, wood density and lignin content, and understanding processes of below ground carbon movement and storage.  We hope to eventually establish a basis for which poplar growers can be credited for the amount of carbon their plantations are accumulating and document the chain of custody for a variety of products  made from poplars.


Poplars are being used to clean contaminated soil and ground water from wide range of contaminants including petroleum hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents, metals, pesticides, explosives and excessive nutrients.  There are often significant cost savings associated with using poplars  to clean up contaminants over traditional methods.     Phytoremediation with poplars, however, cannot be used for all contaminants under all conditions.  Broadacres Nursery consults closely with engineering companies and phytoremediation firms to insure that poplars can grow under the existing site conditions and that the best poplar variety is selected for the site to insure that the trees are growing at their full potential.     A common contaminant problem where poplars are being employed is for the cleanup of  trichloroethylene or TCE plumes in groundwater.   A single poplar tree can filter up to 25 gallons of water per day under good growing conditions. 

Steam Bank Restoration

Poplars are often planted along streams in agricultural and urban areas to stabilize banks, provide shade and filter runoff.   Rapidly growing hybrid poplars can provide a quick source of shade along stream banks to lower water temperatures and aid in the establishment of shade tolerant native plants along riparian areas.    Broadacres has been working with the RC&Dís throughout the northwest to help provide native and hybrid poplars to  farmers who want to plant their stream banks and help restore the water quality.  

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