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|Doubtful from a climate mitigation point of view... (Foto: DS)|
The forests of the world are home to a rich biodiversity and simultaneously they store carbon in plants and soil. It is crucial, therefore, to safe-guard forests to allow production of vital ecosystem services.
Most people would agree that we need to stop destruction of rain-forests in the world, for the sake of nature and climate. The timber industry in Sweden argues that forests should be clear-cut in order to mitigate climate change. This idea just so happens to coincide with the industry’s business interest. They bluntly state on a campaign website that the more wood products you buy, the better for the climate. Please check our pages Myths about Climate and Forest where we debunk the statements from the timber industry.
What does state-of-the-art research say about this? From a strictly business-as-usual point of view, replacing concrete with wood products might benefit the climate, but there is no scientific consensus on this issue. A lot of research in fact runs counter to the timber industry's views, in particular when we take a broader view of human resource use.
Follow the links on the website and explore! Then read under Solutions about what we can do to save both climate and forests.
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Williams and colleagues show that trees thanks to their natural different growth forms and ability to modify their shape to fit the available space, can allow multiple tree species to fill in vertical gaps with branches and leaves. This maximizes their combined ability to take up sun light which favours the biomass production. Williams et al. studied 37 plots of temperate-boreal trees that had been planted in Quebec four years previously, ranging from a monoculture to a plot with 12 different tree species. They found that multi-species plantations may be more productive and resilient. By mixing fast-growing shade-intolerant species with slow-growing shade-tolerant species the productivity in forests can be enhanced. Read the whole article in Nature Ecology and Evolution.
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Elison and 21 co-workers review research showing that forest, water and energy interactions provide foundations for carbon storage, for cooling terrestrial surfaces and distributing water resources. The authors imply that forest-driven water and energy cycles are poorly integrated into regional, national, continental and global decision-making on climate change adaptation, mitigation, land use and water management. They call for a prioritization of the hydrologic and climate-cooling effects of trees and forests while carbon storage should be a secondary, valuable, by-product. Read the whole article in Global Environmental Change.
Bright2015 - Quantifying surface albedo and other direct biogeophysical climate forcings of forestry activities
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Bright and co-workers describe how forestry and other land-use activities not only alter the carbon balance, but also affect biogeophysical forcings, such as surface solar and thermal infrared radiation budgets and atmospheric turbulence, leading to alterations in the fluxes of heat, water vapor, momentum, carbon dioxide, other trace gases, and organic and inorganic aerosols between the land surface and the atmosphere. These biogeophysical forcings are rarely included in climate policies for forestry due to many challenges associated with their quantification. In this review, the scientific literature in the fields of atmospheric science and terrestrial ecology is quantified. Read the whol article in Global Change Biology.
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Gustavsson and co-workers describe three scenario's for forestry in Sweden: busines as usual, increased harvest of biomass and reduced harvest (set-aside). Based on this they model future carbon dioxide emissions over a period of 100 years. They assume business as usual on the demand side, based on which they conclude that it is better in the short run to reduce harvest, but in the long run it would be better to use forestry products in construction and for energy purposes. The study is deceptive for a number of reasons:
- Authors do not mention the impact on biodiversity of their scenario's, which will remain under severe pressure as it is now.
- Authors do not mention that the risk for reaching tipping points is very large in all scenario's
- Authors neglect technical progress, like development of solar energy will reduce the need for liquid fuels
- Authors neglect the fact that the substition effect does not work in practice
The whole study can be read in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.
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