back to article Planting trees will not save the planet: official

Bad news for plastic greens: planting trees really isn't going to save us from global warming. Researchers studying pine trees in North Carolina have determined that there is a limit to the amount of extra carbon dioxide a tree can actually turn into more tree. The decade-long Free Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) experiment, set …

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Anonymous Coward

Lungs of the Planet?

So where does that leave the statement that the Amazon rain forest is the "lungs of the planet" then? Or is that bollocks as well?

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Oh, For Pete's Sake!

All the CO2 I'm releasing into the atmosphere comes from the crazy biomass known as fossil fuel. It got there from the atmosphere, gazillions of years ago. All I'm doing is putting it back, OK?

And as for the claim that 'water is a scarce resource', I live in Sheffield. I'm up to my neck in the stuff. And I'm creating plenty more by burning that fossil fuel I mentioned earlier.

OK, now shoot me down in flames ...

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Anonymous Coward

So the trees that are already there...

...won't sequester more carbon just because of rising CO2 levels? My! Quel surprise! Any O-Level biology pass could have told you that.

Carbon-offsetting involving trees require that extra trees are planted. There's no need to fertilise more land unless there's no land left which will already support trees and isn't needed for anything else. If the research is trying to say "We'll need more land than we have in order to offset all our carbon" then they're missing the point that we're not *trying* to offset *all* our fossil carbon release; there are meant to be efforts to use other means to combat the human contribution to greenhouse gases.

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Perhaps I'm missing something?

Where does irrigation and fertilising come into this? The Face study shows that regardless of how much CO2 is around, trees don't grow much more large than they usually do, about 20%. That's not really suprising; I wouldn't grow much taller eating more food growing up either. Trees grew just fine across much of the world before we humans decided we liked lawn and meadow as landscaping better than copse and forest. We could certainly decided the other way again, and plant climate-appropriate trees instead of grass, and the ones that survive grow up, bind up carbon as tree mass, Then we figure out how to make some of that mass not rot back to CO2 and dirt.

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Silver badge

Pine Trees!

These are evergreens with small leaf mass. If I'm not mistaken, but broadleafs, by there very nature, soak up more Co2 and are pretty much self fertalizing. The leafrs fall down, they decompose and provide nutrients for next year.

How the hell did trees grow before B&Q was around?

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So Reverend Al Misled Us Again. Can I Get An A-men Brother!

One more chink in the armour of the new religion of climate change - the Most Holy Church of Doom 'n Gloom.

This little titbit is but one more example of why I don't and can't trust the computer climate models that predict umpty degrees warming in X years. The earth has a virtually limitless number of variables at play in the the climate game. Our computer models contain maybe a couple of dozen variables, and of those there are many legitimate questions about the accuracy and validity of them. All of this stands as solid testimony to the fact that our best predictions are simply guesses - guesses that have been caught up in the heat of politics and power.

Another chink the climate change armour showed up today in the Times Online at:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article2195538.ece

Apparently walking is more damaging overall to our climate than taking the car because walking makes one eat more, and food production is terribly 'ungreen' thereby causing greater damage to ol' mum earth.

Meanwhile "Reverend" Al Gore blasts away at the evil polluters day by day running more electrical through the multiple meters on his Tennessee manse than any of us reading El Rego use in several months and he flies via private jet to his next speaking engagement all the while assuring the faithful that he's buying carbon credits, which now are apparently worthless.

Feh!

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Anonymous Coward

grow seaweed...

plenty of water there. Also the amount of *Nitrates* (read: slurry) dumped into the oceans act as pretty good fertilizer.

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not conifers

Lungs of the Earth and getting CO2 to come down means deciduous trees. Fast growing conifers just make the soil acidic, limit what it can be used for because of the 3 inch layer of acicidc pine needles and do nothing for the environment.

Deciduous natural forests are much better.

but they won't help the CO2 crisis because of the quantities involved. Our need for the beef burger has meant the green house effect of so much beef (the biggest contributor or methane) and the fact horrendous amounfs of the amazon are being cut down stop anything we do from being useful. Together with fossil fuels being burned in greater amounts than carbin sinks can do.

I wish people studied Geography sometimes. I learned all this years ago in class, that and the news that putting tarmac and concrete everywhere increases the likelyhood of floods because nothing slows the rain down in the catchment area. There is no lag time for the swell of rain entering the river system. (which is actually helped the most by forested slopes of deciduous trees)

A flood plain is called the flood plain for a reason.

It's all basic GCSE Geography- assuming todays kids and schools taught that, and assuming today's politicians and journalists actually read a book now and then...

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Don't blame the trees

Here's a thought, and I'll type slowly so people understand, maybe if actually STOPPED pumping so much CO2 into the atmosphere instead of thinking we can negate it by planting trees there would actually be a reduction in the amount of CO2. Clever huh? But then it's always the obvious solutions that get overlooked.

As far as I'm concerned carbon trading, being "carbon-neutral" and all these other scams are the equivalent of an obese person trying to lose weight by convincing someone else to become an anorexic. But guess what? It doesn't matter how many people you convince to become anorexic, the obese person will still be a fat pig!

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By the way

Most of our oxygen comes from the ocean anyway, not trees. I found this out by watching the to awesome Planet Earth HD series.

It really doesn't matter. CO2 is such a minor part of our atmosphere anyway. CO2 in earth is slightly less than 0.04% of our atmosphere.

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Anonymous Coward

Love the Trees

Trees also absorb sunlight.

Trees can do more harm than good. In the USA most electricity lines are above ground on poles. Trees fall and the electric company has to come shop the tree up before they can work on the Electric line. Then they have to replace transformers, get new telephone poles and then put up the power lines again. So trees in the wrong place can do more damage than good.

Trees are also not all created the same. A tree has to have room to become really large. The larger the tree the more effective it is. Larger trees absorb more sunlight, and produce more carbon monoxide. However it can take 100 years for trees to get that large, and it must be planted some place where it has room to grow. Tree roots also serve to help control flooding, limit erosion and hold more water in storage. Land has to be managed to have enough room for trees to grow properly.

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Dead trees

What happens when trees die? They decay. And how does decay work? Well, part of the process involves oxidation. And what gets oxidized? Amongst other things, carbon. And what does that produce? Why, carbon dioxide, of course.

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Anonymous Coward

Love the Trees

You have to love trees. However, people keep cutting down trees so they can have large expanses of Green Grass. Nothing I hate worse than a large green laws full of pesticides and fertilizer just so some rich snob, government agency, or University can be made to look pretty.

Then there are the Evil Parking Lots. Not only do they radiate heat like a giant oven, they do not permit the land they cover to absorb moisture. All that water has to go somewhere.

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Ian

All this Live Earthy type stuff is a bit pathetic

The best thing we can do for the planet is to use alternative sources of energy to power our homes, workplaces & transport.

Unfortunately it means the environmental groups might have to see nuclear power stations being built or hillsides being covered in wind turbines, but this is a small price to pay to stop hearing this "offsetting" BS.

Its probably better for the environment if you have to fly to invest in aircraft manufacturer to allow them to better research composite materials, new fuels etc than it is to bury your head in the sand and plant a few trees.

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Obvious

When will Joe Public learn that Pine Trees =/= Virgin Rainforest? The fact that 'Carbon Neutral' companies are funding conifer plantations (which are a returning long-term investment, by the way) does NOT counteract the rape and pillage of carbon-soaking original forests.

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Do trees get fat?

When they eat too much carbon?

What I'm really curious to know is, does all that time spent planting trees help because you're planting trees instead of driving a car.. or does all the extra driving around to plant trees make up for that?

No, pushing CO2 into the air can not be mitigated by growing a Christmas Tree. You don't undo what you did, you've just planted a tree. The CO2 is still in the air. It doesn't get eaten by your tree. What idiot conceived this mad scientist idea anyway? Probably someone from California. The usual type that produces BS self help books based on quarter of a science lesson they misheard 30 years ago. You want to do your part to stop global warming? Go home and switch some bloody stuff off. Then you might actually stand a chance of planting enough trees to make a difference.

Because here's a novel idea - and it'll help keep the trees from getting fat too. Why not give them smaller portions to eat?

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Anonymous Coward

Long-term carbon storage

Most of you are missing the point. Yes of course trees will eventually outgas CO2 when they rot - so stop them rotting! Build something with them and make it last hundreds of years. It is childs play but its in a much abused (internally and externally) industry. Wood is an excellent building material and if treated right the carbon won't be getting emitted for 200-300 years. That's enough time to lock carbon up in wood - if we haven't got a clue by then we'll be dead anyway.

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Dying

After reading Geoff Gale's link I decided I would just lay down and die. Then I realized that a cremation or funeral would be less green than going on living.

Seriously people. Those who preach this drivel, are you just that bored?

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The reason Pine trees were used

There was method in their madness- when pine trees were used in the survey. Quite simply- their growing season is almost 4 times as long as for decidious trees, in some cases they are net photosynthesisers all year round.

Irrespective of how much you love decidious trees- their leaves decompose in under 4 years, releasing among other things, the CO2 which originally went into their production. Their leaves are also shed on an annual basis, while coniferous trees (with the exception of larch) tend to keep their leaves for 2-3 years. The fastest growing broadleafed species can increment their standing timber volume by only about 7-8 cubic meters per hectare per annum (while coniferous species under optimal conditions can increment their mass by up to 3 times this).

If we are to attempt to offset our carbon emissions through the plantation of trees- by and far the most appropriate manner is to attempt to sink as much carbon as possible, as fast as possible. If readers are moaning about acidification of soil, monocultures, minimal wildlife diversity- and the fact that these forests are not nature reserves/national parks where they can go and gawk at deer- they just don't get it. The study is on how to sink carbon, not pamper bambi.......

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Dan

50% more CO2?

Al Gore told me that unless we did something CO2 levels would rise to several hundred times their current level by this coming Sunday- Shouldn't we be testing tress at that level?

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Why trees?

Trees aren't the only plants that process CO2. Bamboo can grow pretty darn quickly.

Or, one of my personal nightmare scenarios, genetically engineer kudzu to be an even faster grower vine, and then plant it every where. By the time it crawls over every available surface of the planet, it sucks so much CO2 out of the atmosphere that there's suddenly an excess O2 problem.

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Anonymous Coward

More recycle eco-garbage debunked

Why all this stupid nonsense about CO2 and this bogus greenhouse myth, it's the Sun stupid. If you add more energy into a system without radiating all the extra energy, the system warms up, how hard is this people!

As for all these measures to control a tiny percentage of the atmosphere and heat, complete idiocy, we don't have the will or the technology to make any useful difference, it just makes things more expensive, more complicated, less fun and less free. A lot of the sound good methods actually make things worse. BTW, you veg-activists, kill the dogma, we are still omnivores, get used to it, we need meat for optimum health, we were not hunter gathers for the scenery!

Most of these alternative energy schemes are actually more wasteful, inefficient, ineffective and destructive to the environment that the current schemes, hows that for irony, prime examples are Silicon based solar panels, Windmills and bio-ethanol!

What we should do is recycle, localise and centralise by merit (not by dogma or politics), make better designed stuff which lasts longer with less waste and stop being so damned lazy with our food e.g kill ready meals and other junk food.

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PJ

Well, I didn't see that coming.

Think this is stupid? Anyone catch this sparkling gem of a news story:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wear/6917693.stm

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Anonymous Coward

Put it Back Where It's Coming From

Sure decaying trees produce CO2. This is nothing new -- it's part of the carbon cycle. The real problem is there's all this "additional" CO2 coming from geologic sources that have previously sequestered the carbon -- volcanic activity and our burning of hydrocarbon deposits.

The carbon cycle can only deal with a limited amount of carbon given human resource needs (e.g. water and energy). Finding a balance between human resource needs and these kinds of cycles is what's meant when folks talk about "sustainable" practices.

Perhaps the trick is to bury the leaves in those same geologic formations we extract oil from. In the short term (100s of years) we'll have reduced the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

The trouble is nobody knows where things balance -- at what rates can we use these natural resources? How many people would that sustain? And how well would those people be able to live? It's an incredibly hard question to understand fully much less attempt to find solutions!

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Silver badge

Amazon != Lungs of the planet

It is emotianally appealing to think of the Amazon as the lungs of the planet. In truth, algae do far more but it is very hard to get worked up about green slime.

Of course it only makes sense to plant carbon sinks in areas that can support them in a sustainable way. If you have to fertilise/water them then it makes little/no sense.

Carbon sinking alone is probably not enough to fully offset mankind's carbon footprint, but it is at least doing **something**. Enough different mechanisms can make a difference together.

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Anonymous Coward

tress

"Al Gore told me that unless we did something CO2 levels would rise to several hundred times their current level by this coming Sunday- Shouldn't we be testing tress at that level?"

naa, tress has his hands full running b0g - and I don't think a b0gger is that environmentally friendly anyways....

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Anonymous Coward

From PJ's link:

"Cavity-wall insulation, in one house over a year, can save 12 tonnes of carbon emissions so we will need to insulate around 34 properties to offset the airshow."

That is complete & utter b0ll0x....your average house emits around 2-3 tonnes of CO2 per annum wrt heating & lighting - to emit anything like 12 tonnes it would have to have the central heating running at full pelt all day every single day so to say that installing cavity wall insulation alone into an average house will save 12 tonnes of CO2 is laughable....but as many have already observed all of this 'offsetting' business is a scam and it seems councils & governments are in on it too.

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Carbon Banks

Most of the excess CO2 we produce comes from fossil fuels. Oil/coal/whatever is the worlds way of storing the carbon and keeping it out of the atmosphere. We burn it and put the CO2 in the atmosphere. In 50 years time we will run out of fossil fuels, so the amout of CO2 that we put into the atmosphere will reduce. Therefore in 50 years time, global warming will start to reduce, probably very slowly, but it will reduce.

However, for a quick win we need to look at Mrs Burns (yes, him from Spingfield Nuclear Power Plant). What we need to do is create a massive parasol and for a few days every year put this up to stop the suns rays from hitting the planet and let it cool down a bit. :-)

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Title

"Or, one of my personal nightmare scenarios, genetically engineer kudzu to be an even faster grower vine, and then plant it every where. By the time it crawls over every available surface of the planet, it sucks so much CO2 out of the atmosphere that there's suddenly an excess O2 problem."

But not for long... Excess 02 - plenty trees - small spark - large fire - plenty CO2...

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Anonymous Coward

Lack of Pirates and Co2

Its amazing how scientists who spend years being taught that nothing is conclusive unless every other infinite option has been proven wrong are the ones telling us that conclusively that Co2 alone is the biggest cause of global warming. What, no mention of the trillions of other factors that could also be impacting the temperature, not least the big fiery ball of gas that heats up the entire solar system?!

The best piece I've read so far is this:

http://management.silicon.com/itdirector/0,39024673,39167966,00.htm

....which is an amusing take on how ridiculous using one meaurement to prove a theory is and if true means that all we have to do is recruit more pirates to get the world's temperature down!

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Dinosaurs or trolls?

@Andy Bright "The CO2 is still in the air. It doesn't get eaten by your tree. What idiot conceived this mad scientist idea anyway? Probably someone from California. The usual type that produces BS self help books based on quarter of a science lesson they misheard 30 years ago. "

It's called photsynthesis. 6 CO2 + 12 H2O → C6H12O6 + 6 O2 + 6 H20.

@Wade "It really doesn't matter. CO2 is such a minor part of our atmosphere anyway. CO2 in earth is slightly less than 0.04% of our atmosphere."

Knock yourself out (literally). Maximum safe level for contuinuous exposure is around 0.1%.

http://www.inspect-ny.com/hazmat/CO2gashaz.htm

"Why all this stupid nonsense about CO2 and this bogus greenhouse myth, it's the Sun stupid. If you add more energy into a system without radiating all the extra energy, the system warms up, how hard is this people!"

OK, I give up.

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dan

slow hand clap....

for all those posting on here seemingly quite happy about us playing russian roulette with our lives, our childrens lives, and our grandchildrens lives....

"All the CO2 I'm releasing into the atmosphere comes from the crazy biomass known as fossil fuel. It got there from the atmosphere, gazillions of years ago. All I'm doing is putting it back, OK?"

Yes and a 'gazillion' years ago the planet would have been uninhabitable.

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Anonymous Coward

Having not read all the previouse comments, yet.

Nonsense. There are plants that put down deep roots to bring up nutrients that can be planted, and other complimentary plants, with the seedling for fertiliser, and in Brazil they have an bean that produces much biomass and nitrogen (not to mention bacteria research). Using solar evaporation they can distill water from bores, and an number of deserts are near oceans for larger solar distillation. Once forests are established they can retain some of their moisture, reducing the need and opening up an wider area of potentially usable land. How much, heaps? How much is timber going to be worth in future, heaps.

The problem with scientists (and humans) is they study things in isolation, but an engineer is supposed to bring other things into the equation to find solutions.

I personally am interested in working on the condensation technology problem.

Wayne Morellini.

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Scouting around the real issue

All this hot air – global this, global that

You know what the real problem is

THERE ARE TOO MANY PEOPLE

. . . not an easy one to answer, that's why it's a REAL problem

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Anonymous Coward

Re: My earlier comments....

Having had a quick look at the government's own 'Act on CO2' website cavity wall insulation will on average save 0.7 tonnes of CO2 per annum in a typical house....so where the airport person gets a '12 tonnes per annum' saving from is anybody's guess.

So rather than needing to insulate 34 houses to offset 400 tonnes of CO2 they need to do closer to 570 houses....a little more than they quote.

As per usual, when 'sustainability' and 'green issues' are mentioned up pop thousands with no knowledge but a hell of a lot of opinion.

Be quiet the lot of you!

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accumulation

There is an lot of garbage being planted here, no pun intended. By the accumulation of effect of different methods we can make an difference. The oceans accumulate deep, and over hundreds of years it turns up at the other end, how long since the industrial revolution? How much can it take. In the so called, dead zone, in the South Pacific, it is devoid of an lot of biomass, and they don't know exactly why apparently. But what they have shown, is the addition of an little iron, or fertiliser will encourage great growth (blue see to greenish see). It is being thought of as an potential big carbon sink. But not so directly predictable. So the reality is that making money out of trees is much more attractive.

One of the problems/solutions, is too much of the earth is arid or semi-arid, if it all had substantial rainfall much of the problem could be abated with biomass.

I thought that when an tree decomposed it didn't just all go up in CO2 so quickly. But I would like to suggest, as pointed out elsewhere, apart from storing it like previously suggested, like filling up deep deep valleys, how much of it is stored up in use makes an difference. Chip an rock multiple times, and you likely to land up with an bigger chunk out of it.

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Can't Agree With That!

Sorry Geoff Gale, but I can't go along with what you say at all:

"All of this stands as solid testimony to the fact that our best predictions are simply guesses - guesses that have been caught up in the heat of politics and power."

Yes, those models are complex, yes there are many variables, no, not all the attempts to understand the problems of global warming neatly overlay in complete consistency with one another. But anyone who has a grasp of human advancement over the last thousand years or so would realise that great steps in knowledge often take time.

One person raises an idea or suggestion, they are refuted and ridiculed, chastised as being out of standing with the commonly accepted wisdom of the day and then over time, more and more people consider what was said, they test it for themselves, they contribute new data or models, and presto, a paradigm shift in thinking takes place.

Thank goodness for people like Copernicus and Galileo and Newton and Einstein and Darwin. Every single one of them was controversial. Why would you think that the emerging science of global warming would be any different? We are only on the cusp of understanding right now. What the world doesn't need is the head-in-sand, 'safe-ignorance' is superior to 'uncertain progress' types.

Anybody with a slight grasp of this science is aghast at the rate of change to ecosystems compared to well understood variations in planetary temperature cycles. Carbon dioxide is a big factor in this of course, amongst many others. A study at offsetting carbon has provided further insights. Just because it produced results that were not at the high end of hopes and expectations doesn't mean the whole thing is rubbish. There's so much more to be understood. Suffice to say, it seems to me that those best predictions are not as you say "wild guesses" but "best predictions"; lets hope they get better quickly. Have a lentil-filled wholemeal bread sandwich on me!

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Wow! I've learned a lot from these posts

Man has science changed in the last 20 years since I did my Forestry Science degree. (I think not!). Some people type a load of rubbish, and it is this very ignorance that is being preyed on by Al Gore and his ilk.

Anthropogenic global warming is a load of pseudo-science that has been decided is true on the basis of the opinions of politicians.

People, you need to stop listening, and start thinking. The "hockey stick" graph showing increases in global temperature in relation to CO2 is does not prove cause and effect. In fact it is strongly possible that the vast oceans of the world are releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, as a result of solar warming of the earth. Correlation does not mean effect!

You might also be interested to know that when you fell a tree the carbon trading model assumes that all the carbon is released into the atmosphere. You can't get a credit for locking the carbon up in the frame of a building or a dining room table or a ream of paper. Kyoto protocol does not recognise sequestration unless the trees are still attached to the stump.

Climate change is happening. That is not disputed. However, the cause is very unlikely to be human activity. But think about this - who has decided that the climate today is the ideal climate for anywhere in the world?

Anyway, I have a spreadsheet that shows the relationship between the increased use of Excel and global warming.

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