Scientific articles about forests and the climate

Körner2017: Carbon storage increases with the age of trees, not their growth rate.

According to Körner, rapid tree growth does not lead to increased carbon storage in a forest, but only to increased carbon turnover. Instead it is tree longevity that leads to increased forest carbon storage. Read more in Science.

Achat2015: Soil carbon decreases due to intensive forest harvest

Achat with colleagues analyze many earlier papers and find that when logging residues were collected after harvest, the soil carbon decreases, compared to harvests where logging residues are left in the forest. The analysis includes deeper soil layers. Read more in Nature Scientific Reports.

Griscom2017: Natural climate solutions

Griscom with colleagues suggest partial solutions to the climate problem that also improve the situation for biodiversity. Some suggestions are reforestation, avoided deforestation, restoration of wetlands and biochar. These methods can contribute up to a third of the climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to keep us on a 2-degree trajectory. Read more in PNAS.

Sterkenburg2019: Clearcuts kill mycorrhizal fungi

Sterkenburg and colleagues investigate what happens to mycorrhizal fungi when a pine forest is logged, with differing amounts of trees left. If only 5 % of the trees are left, as in the FSC-standard, then 75 % of the mycorrhizal fungi species will die. It takes about 90 years for the species richness to recover, but rare species might not come back. Read more in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Nieminen2018: Ditch maintenance leads to silty streams

When forest drainage ditches are maintained by dredging away accumulated soil, silt and nutrients often leak into streams, which damages the stream ecosystem. Nieminen with colleages look at various ways to prevent this leakage, and conclude that it seems difficult to avoid. Read more in Ambio.

Williams2017: Spatial complementarity in tree crowns explains overyielding in species mixtures

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.

Elison2017: Trees, forests and water: Cool insights for a hot world

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

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.

Gustavsson2017 – Impact of intensive forestry on climate

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.

Newbold2016: Has land use pushed terrestrial biodiversity beyond the planetary boundary?

Newbold and co-workers have compiled data about biodiversity loss from across the globe. The question is whether the planetary boundary has been transgressed already.  They estimate that the loss of biodiversity on 58% of the land surface on earth is more than can be considered safe. If unchecked, this will make it difficult to reach long-term sustainable development goals. Authors conclude with the following: “Slowing or reversing the global loss of local biodiversity will require preserving the remaining areas of natu- ral (primary) vegetation and, so far as possible, restoring human-used lands to natural (secondary) vegetation“. Read the whole article in Science.