Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Clearcut Logging- Fueling Global Warming

The paragraph below is from the Union of Concerned Scientists. I will be writing about this topic again soon as climate change is possibly the greatest threat to our world aside from nuclear annihilation. The above photo is from the Grizzly Creek watershed and shows both Green Diamond and Pacific Lumber clearcuts. The graph below was found at the Stop Clearcutting California website.

"There is a widespread and misguided belief that logging or clearing mature forests and replacing them with fast-growing younger trees will benefit the climate by sequestering atmospheric CO2. While younger trees grow and sequester carbon quickly, the fate of stored carbon when mature forests are logged must also be considered. When a forest is logged, some of its carbon may be stored for years or decades in wood products. But large quantities of CO2 are also released to the atmosphere - immediately through the disturbance of forest soils, and over time through the decomposition of leaves, branches, and other detritus of timber production. One study found that even when storage of carbon in timber products is considered, the conversion of 5 million hectares [12,355,269 acres] of mature forest to plantations in the Pacific Northwest over the last 100 years resulted in a net increase of over 1.5 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere."

20. Harmon, M.E., W.K. Ferrell and J.K. Franklin. 1990. Effects on carbon storage of conversion of old-growth forests to young forests. Science 247: 699-702.
Union of Concerned Scientists. “Recognizing Forests' Role in Climate Change”


At 5/20/2008 01:03:00 PM, Anonymous Bolithio said...

This issue is going to be very hard to quantify and even harder to get "scientists" to agree. It may be true that the logging of old growth led to increases in carbon into the atmosphere. The real question now should be how much carbon is released when logging second growth stands. If 5 million hectacres have been logged in the north west ion the past 100 years - how many of those forests are now 100 year old stands? If they are - then isnt the 1.5 billion tons a little misleading? This issue is the difference between deforestation and forest management. As long as the forest is not converted to walmarts - then it is still a functional forest and will provide carbon storage in the future.

Look at Mt Saint Helens. I dont know how much carbon was released when it blew - but Im sure it was significant - potentially enormous. Also significant was the amount of timberland that was vaporized during the event. Scientists at the time predicted a very slow recovery but to everyones pleasant surprise the natural recovery has exceeded expectations by leaps and bounds. The point is that the carbon cycle - the ebb and flow of stored carbon is very complex and should be taken lightly. Let us not jump to conclusions before the jury is out.

At 5/22/2008 03:14:00 AM, Blogger Stephen said...

I do hope enviros are not looking for rationale for attacking the least carbon releasing forest management which is periodic cutting and harvesting wood, large quantities of it that have sequestered carbon out of the atmosphere. I seriously doubt carbon "disturbance" on the ground involved in logging practices contributes anywhere near the mass of carbon removed from the atmosphere by cutting trees. This is not Brazil or the Phillipine rain forests being clearcut where much vegetation hangs on tropical trees acting like poles supporting the vines and creepers up to the sunlight. The mass of clinging vegetation is really what produces the most mass of carbon sequestering in tropical rain forests. All this gets destroyed with tropical clear cutting, harvesting by bulldozer. Our temperate forests are much different where the trees themselves are the major carbon storage vessels and where rules are in place for making sure the trees cut are replaced.

Cutting trees in Humboldt County is not only good for the local economy but good for the environment when it's done properly. Tree sitters, if they were serious, would be going to Brazil and risking their lives but I don't see that happening. Much safer protesting in America and who knows, there may be a book or a movie deal in it too!

At 5/23/2008 09:32:00 AM, Anonymous Bolithio said...

I would argue that true Old Growth Redwoods (ave. of giants caliber) harbor enormous amounts of fixed carbon. Likely when there were contigious forests prior to European settlement - these forests were on par with any rain forest on the equator.


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