Having grown up in California and survived my fair share of really big earthquakes, it isn't easy to view the disasters in a positive light. After all, the 1994 Northridge quake did a mighty good job of smashing most of the stuff in our house to smithereens while simultaneously flinging the water heater across the garden. Even so, new research is revealing that these terrible events play a vital part in storing away carbon floating about in the atmosphere.
The new work shows that the thousands of landslides that big earthquakes set in motion lead large numbers of trees to fall down into river basins. The tress often get carried away by water in these basins and dumped in lakes and deltas where sediment quickly buries them. This process prevents the carbon in the trees' tissues from being released into the air as carbon dioxide when the trees die and effectively locks it away for millions of years. You can read more in The Economist article that I wrote on this subject here.