|January 05, 2009|
The Forest is Our Friend - Right?
|Chicago, USA - Once considered the ’lungs of the planet’, Canada’s vast boreal forests are now being seen as a major contributor to climate change. |
An article published recently in the Chicago Tribune notes that Canada’s forests, which account for more than 7% of Earth’s total forest lands, were always seen as able to suck up vast quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere thereby ridding the world of harmful heat-trapping gases.
"We are seeing a significant distortion of the natural trend," said Werner Kurz, senior research scientist at the Canadian Forest Service and the leading expert on carbon cycles in the nation’s forests. "Since 1999, and especially in the last five years, the forests have shifted from being a carbon sink to a carbon source."
Boreal forest is the most extensive forest type in Canada. Large amounts of carbon are stored in the trees and an even greater amount- 80% of the total carbon in the boreal forest - is actually in the soils, stored as dead organic matter that results from decomposition.
When trees are cut down to use them for forest products such as paper and lumber this releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere contributing to climate change. But 40-60% of the carbon in these trees remains in the forest in the form of roots, branches, and leaves left after the harvest which decompose over time, some of it quickly and some of it over many years.
"The forecast analysis prepared for the government ... indicates there is a probability that forests would constitute a net source of greenhouse gas emissions," a Canadian Environment Ministry spokesman told the Montreal Gazette.
In any year there is substantial new storage of carbon occurring in the areas previously harvested. The combination of harvest and re-growth along with the storage of carbon in long-lasting forest products means that our forest management practices do not result in substantial emissions, notes the CFS website.
Another argument against a logging moratorium is the fact that wood products are essential for construction, furniture and other uses and these would have to be replaced with other man-made materials, such as plastic, steel or concrete, which require burning more fossil fuels and adding more carbon emissions.
See also Business Report Planting Trees and Managing Soils to Sequester Carbon.
For More Information: Chicago Tribune