On this International Day of Forests Let’s Embrace Deep Rooted Change

By Dana Smith March 21, 2020

It’s the International Day of Forests, a day each year that has been set aside to celebrate the role that forests play in sustaining life on Earth. In times like these, hope can be hard to find. But we can find it in forests.

It’s not surprising that every article I’ve read in the last week on how to cope with the stress and anxiety of the Coronavirus pandemic says to get out in nature.

I’m fortunate enough to live in a forest with hiking trails in my backyard. One of my favorite spots is on the top of a big boulder my family and I call Picnic Rock. I went up there just the other day to escape. As I crossed a small stream, I could hear the water flowing over rocks and birds chirping. Once on top of the rock, I looked closely at the small budding leaves on a tree growing in a crack ready to burst into spring. I took a deep breath of fresh air. In the quiet and stillness of the forest, I felt my spirit calm, my body relax…

Timber harvesting results in persistent deficits in summer streamflow

Oregon State University - March 16, 2020

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Summer streamflow in industrial tree plantations harvested on 40- to 50-year rotations was 50% lower than in century-old forests, data from the long-term Alsea Watershed Study in the Oregon Coast Range showed.

The research, led by Oregon State University’s Catalina Segura, is an important step toward understanding how intensively managed plantations might influence water supplies originating in forests and downstream aquatic ecosystems, especially as the planet becomes warmer and drier.

“Industrial plantation forestry is expanding around the globe and that’s raising concerns about the long-term effects the plantations might be having on water, especially in dry years,” Segura said...

Action Alert! Walton Lake logging proposed again

Tom Buchele with old growth fir at Walton Lake

Walton Lake Old Growth, Large tree, and Clearcut Logging Plan Comments Needed Again! The comment deadline is March 19th! 

Since 2016, Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, represented by Tom Buchele of the Earthrise Law Center and attorney Jesse Buss of Willamette Law Group, have twice stopped the Forest Service from logging this area. Unfortunately the Forest Service is at it again–they are proposing (for the third time!) to log this majestic forest using flimsy rationales. The Forest Service refuses to let go of their plans to irrevocably destroy the natural character of Walton Lake, one of the most popular recreation areas on the Ochoco National Forest. The Forest Service is, yet again, proposing clearcutting of old growth and mature moist mixed conifer forest visible from the lake, the campground, and the loop road around the lake, as well as the planned commercial logging of dry mixed conifer forest, including the logging of large trees over 21” diameter in violation of the Forest Plan Eastside Screens. 

Judge Rules Against Trump's Attempt to Log in America's Largest National Forest

BY Olivia Rosane Mar. 13, 2020

A federal judge in Alaska ruled late Wednesday against a Trump administration plan to open 1.8 million acres of America's largest national forest to logging.

 

The Forest Service plan targeted part of the Tongass National Forest on Prince of Wales Island. It would have been the largest sale of national forest timber in 30 years, Earthjustice pointed out, permitting 164 miles of new roads and clearing an area of forest three times the size of Manhattan, more than half of it old growth. But U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that the plan violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because the agency did not take all of its potential impacts into account, The Hill reported.

 

 

"The magnificent, ancient forests of the Tongass just got a reprieve from the chain saws," Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), said in the Earthjustice press release. "We're thrilled the court agreed that the Trump administration broke the law when it approved cutting thousands...

The world's largest privately owned giant sequoia forest is now protected

February 28, 2020 Russell McLendon

A conservation group has closed a $15.65 million deal to buy the largest privately owned giant sequoia grove left on Earth, an ancient forest with hundreds of the endangered redwood trees, which can live for 3,000 years and rise nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty. Due to its size, health and age diversity — with sequoias ranging from seedlings to Methuselahs — this grove represents "the most consequential giant sequoia conservation project of our lifetime," according to the group's president.

Known as Alder Creek, the grove covers a seemingly modest 530 acres (2 square kilometers), but that's a big deal for giant sequoias. The iconic trees once lived throughout the Northern Hemisphere, but they now exist in only 73 isolated groves, all located on the...

How The Big Oregon Timber Deal Came Together, And How It Could Fall Apart

by Lauren Dake OPB - February. 14, 2020

This week started off on a celebratory note in Salem: environmentalists and timber groups struck a deal they hailed as historic, an agreement that would save the state from an epic and expensive battle over Oregon’s forests.

But by the end of the week, Republicans were vowing to stage another walkout — at least one said his bag was already packed — and there was word the governor was mulling calling a special legislative session every day if they did, a move that would force Republicans to either stay outside state lines for the rest of the year or return to the Capitol...

 

Republican Lawmakers Introduce Trillion Trees Act To Combat Climate Change

By Ronald Bailey Reason – February 13, 2020

At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, President Donald Trump declared that "the United States will join One Trillion Trees Initiative." He reaffirmed this commitment during the State of the Union address, calling the initiative "an ambitious effort to bring together government and private sector to plant new trees in America and all around the world."

The people behind the initiative argue that planting vast numbers of trees is "an important part of solving the global climate crisis." By absorbing globe-warming carbon dioxide from the air, these trees will help slow down man-made climate change. This is the chief rationale for pursuing the initiative, yet the president has so far failed to acknowledge it. There's a puzzle for you.

At any rate, this week Rep. Bruce Westerman (R–Ark.) introduced the Trillion Trees Act. This legislation forthrightly notes that "one trillion new trees globally would sequester a significant amount of atmospheric carbon and constitute a pragmatic step towards addressing global carbon emissions." In the press release promoting the bill, Westerman states, "I challenge anyone to find a better climate solution than taking care of our forests." Bill co-sponsor Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) hailed the Act as offering "a powerful solution to combat our changing climate..."

PROTECTION VS. PROCESS: CSE’S TAKE ON GOVERNOR KATE BROWN’S OREGON LOGGING DEAL

by John Talberth Center for Sustainable Economy - February 12, 2020

On Monday, February 10th, 2020, Governor Kate Brown announced an agreement between environmental and timber industry organizations to stand down on further advocacy for six ballot measures (3 from both sides) currently in the signature gathering phase in exchange for commitments from parties to support short term legislation on aerial pesticide spraying and stream buffers in southern Oregon and long term legislation (2022 session) that lays the groundwork for a habitat conservation plan (HCP) for salmonids and other aquatic species.

The environmental initiatives would have increased the size of stream buffers and no-spray zones for logging and aerial pesticide applications while the timber industry initiatives would have forced taxpayers to pay landowners for the economic costs of additional regulations (so-called “takings”). The agreement was crafted late last week and over the weekend and includes 13 signatories from each side. While the agreement has been hailed by Governor Brown and others as ‘historic’ and ‘extraordinary’ it is important to understand what it does or does not do on the ground and what the implications will be for the work of those not party to the agreement.

Oregon timber companies, environmentalists sign ‘historic’ pact

By The Associated Press, February 10, 2020

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Environmental groups and timber companies in Oregon, which have clashed for decades, on Monday unveiled a road map for overhauling forest practice regulations, a step which Gov. Kate Brown called “historic.”

"This agreement proves that we can build a better future for Oregonians if we work together with a willingness to compromise. Healthy forests and a vibrant forestry industry are not mutually exclusive,” Brown told a news conference with representatives

Leaders of around a dozen environmental groups, including Oregon Wild, the Audubon Society of Portland and Cascadia Wildlands, and a dozen timber companies, including Weyerhaeuser, one of the largest forest products companies in the world, and Lone Rock of Roseburg, signed the memorandum of understanding after quietly holding meetings in Salem and Portland.

Restoring Forests Could Help Put a Brake on Global Warming, Study Finds

By Somini Sengupta July 5, 2019

What if we stopped cutting down forests to produce palm oil and cattle? What if we grew new forests on vacant city lots, old industrial buildings — even golf courses?

For the first time, scientists have sought to quantify this thought experiment. How many trees could be planted on every available parcel of land on Earth, where they could go, and what impact could that have on our survival?

They concluded that the planet could support nearly 2.5 billion additional acres of forest without shrinking our cities and farms, and that those additional trees, when they mature, could store a whole lot of the extra carbon — 200 gigatons of carbon, to be precise — generated by industrial activity over the last 150 years.

Victoria To Ban Logging of Native Forests Under Groundbreaking New Policy

By Madeleine Keck

Victoria will phase out the logging of native forests under the largest environmental protection policy in the state’s history, the state government announced Thursday. 

 

While the reduction of native timber harvesting will be gradual until 2030, logging in 90,000 hectares of Victoria’s oldest forests — home to trees over 600 years old — will be instantly enforced. The new policy will cut 1.71 million tonnes of carbon from the environment annually over the next 25 years — equal to eliminating the impact of 730,000 cars each year.

Guest View: Innovation must drive Elliott State Research Forest

By Josh Laughlin The Register Guard – January 16, 2020

The Register-Guard’s editorial headline “Elliott Forest plan could be a win for everyone in 2020” (Our View, Dec. 30) is correct. A change in management of the Elliott State Forest is a tremendous opportunity for Oregonians to protect salmon and wildlife habitat, store carbon to combat runaway climate change and conduct cutting-edge research with a focus on jobs-based, restoration forestry.

But Oregon State University’s initial concept for creating an Elliott State Research Forest falls short of these goals. OSU’s College of Forestry has run modeling scenarios that would clearcut tens of thousands of acres of forests, spray the forest with up to three rounds of herbicides after the cut and perform “animal control,” that typically means killing black bears and mountain beavers.

Trump Removes Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands

by Coral Davenport 1-23-20

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday will finalize a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and other water bodies, handing a victory to farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers who said Obama-era rules had shackled them with onerous and unnecessary burdens.

From Day 1 of his administration, President Trump vowed to repeal President Barack Obama’s “Waters of the United States” regulation, which had frustrated rural landowners. His new rule, which will be implemented in the coming weeks, is the latest step in the Trump administration’s push to...

4,375 Acres to be Logged and Burned in Hoosier National Forest

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Your Calls and Letters Can Stop This Project

The U.S. Forest Service is moving forward with a plan to log 4,375 acres, repeatedly burn 13,500 acres, build 16.4 miles of logging roads, and apply herbicides on 1,970 acres all concentrated on ridges, slopes, and valleys in the Hoosier National Forest (HNF) that drain into Monroe Reservoir. We urgently need your help in contacting the officials listed below to stop this ill-advised project and compel the Forest Service to consider alternatives. 

Take Action Today

Contact each of the following officials and ask them to stop the current logging and burning plan in the Houston South Area. Share with them...

Group raises nearly $16 million to buy Alder Creek giant sequoia grove

By Bettina BoxallStaff Writer Jan. 8, 2020

The donations ranged from $1 to several million. The money came from across the country and around the world.

Save the Redwoods League raised nearly $16 million — more than half of it in four months — to close a deal for 530 acres of the Alder Creek Grove of giant sequoias.

The century-old conservation group took title to the Sierra Nevada property on Dec. 30, realizing a long-held dream of acquiring the world’s largest private holding of the world’s largest trees.

League officials said the $15.65 million from individuals and foundations is the most the organization has ever raised in purely private donations for a single conservation project.

“It was incredible,” said Becky Bremser, the league’s director of land protection. “We are so thrilled. And...

The real cause of division in communities

Guest View By David Eisler Register Guard – January 7, 2020

Amanda Astor ends her recent column with “Better understanding of forests and the science behind decision making can bring our community closer and tear down divisions and alarmist narratives.”

Apparently she believes that scientists’ and community members’ concerns about the impacts of industrial logging are alarmist and have no basis in fact. Astor would have us all simply accept timber companies public relations and we should all get along just fine living with high-impact clearcutting, aerial herbicide spraying, monocrop plantations and the decimation of forest and aquatic ecosystems.

So, let’s be clear about what seems to be the cause of division in the communities…

Pacific Northwest forests fit trifecta for curbing climate change — if we stop logging them

by Cassandra Profita Oregon Public Broadcasting / January 1, 2020

Study shows trees along the coast and in the Cascade and Olympic mountains have the most potential to sequester carbon.
new study finds some Northwest forests have a lot of potential to capture carbon and offset climate change. That is, if they’re preserved and not logged.

Researchers at Oregon State University and the University of California, Berkeley, looked at which forests in the Western United States should be prioritized for preservation under climate change scenarios.

They analyzed which forests have the most potential to sequester carbon, are least vulnerable to drought and fire, and also provide valuable habitat for endangered species.

Many of the forests that hit that trifecta are along the Oregon and Washington coast and in the Cascade and Olympic mountains.

by Isabella Kaminski Science 12.25.2019 08:00 AM

This story originally appeared on Undark and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

When most people conjure a forest, they imagine a dense network of trees, their crowns arching high above, with spots of sunshine flashing between the leaves. Some might also think of birdsong and insects, or summon thoughts of thick foliage in the understory, the crunch of leaves or pine needles underfoot, or overgrown trails meandering into the thicket.

Whatever the particular imagery, it’s undoubtedly more picturesque than that conveyed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s definition: An area greater than 1.25 acres, populated by trees 16 feet or taller, with more than 10 percent canopy cover. While this simple and straightforward list of attributes might make it easy to classify land, it gives little insight into what a forest can...

Norway Is The First Country In The World To Ban Deforestation, More Countries Need To Follow Suit

by Andrea D. SteffenApril 5, 2019

The Norwegian government made a pledge with Germany and the UK back in 2014, at the UN Climate Summit in New York, that they would “promote national commitments that encourage deforestation-free supply chains, including through public procurement policies to sustainably source commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef and timber.”

So far, Norway is the only country to do something towards this pledge that’s drastic enough to make a difference. They have become the first country in the world to ban deforestation. The Norwegian Parliament pledged that the government’s public procurement policy will be deforestation-free. By becoming the first country in the world to make such a large-scale move against deforestation, Norway is setting an example for other countries to consider similar policies.

Nils Hermann Ranum head of policy and campaign at Rainforest Foundation Norway said...

What is an 'old-growth' forest?

By Will McCarthy Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Most visitors to California’s Humboldt County forests go there to camp and fish, leaving behind the problems of every-day life. Olive didn’t do that. Instead, she found herself fighting for a cause with worldwide consequences.

“I was arrested in the woods,” said Olive, a name she uses for privacy concerns. “A few times.”

The 24-year-old was arrested while trying to protect what activists call the last undisturbed stand of old-growth Douglas fir trees in California. The Rainbow Ridge trees are part of a temperate rainforest that stores more carbon per square acre than...

Forest Service moves to open "America’s Amazon" to loggers

Sarah Okeson December 15, 2019 5:30PM (UTC)

Trump’s National Forest Service is using a refuted scientific theory to justify building roads in our country’s largest national forest, what some call “America’s Amazon.”

Loggers want to raze trees more than 1,000 years old.

The Forest Service says guidelines from the United Nations’ climate authority would be followed. Two scientists whose research was cited in the U.N. study says the Forest Service is espousing junk science.

“Nothing in that report supports what they’re...

Group looking to restore wolves to Colorado gets 200,000 signatures for 2020 ballot

Posted 10:37 am, December 10, 2019, by Dara Bitler, Updated at 05:54PM, December 10, 2019

DENVER -- Colorado voters could soon be tasked with deciding whether to bring wolves back to the state.

The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund announced Tuesday that it submitted more than 200,000 signature to the Colorado secretary of state in hopes of placing restoration of wolves on the 2020 state ballot.

Initiative 107 instructs Colorado Parks and Wildlife to develop, after public input, a science-based plan for reintroducing wolves to western Colorado by 2023. It also directs the Colorado General Assembly to develop a means to compensate ranchers for...

Study Shows Boreal Deforestation Is Far Higher than Reported

December 05, 2019 Anthony Swift

In findings that have significant implications for Canada's boreal forest and the climate, a new study finds that deforestation rates in Ontario are nearly fifty times higher than reported by government officials...

Oregon's unlogged forests are nature's climate solution

by Dominick A. DellaSala and John Talberth Mail Tribune – December 8, 2019

Scientists have made it clear that if we hope to avoid escalating climate disruptions, we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground while simultaneously drawing down carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere primarily from burning fossil fuels and global forest destruction.

In fact, experts have determined that the most effective strategy to remove carbon from the atmosphere at a meaningful scale is to protect the world’s remaining unlogged forests and replenish what has been lost by replanting trees and letting them grow to maturity. One study estimates that natural carbon solutions can provide more than one-third of the carbon reduction the world needs to meet the Paris Climate Agreements.

This is especially relevant in our region, where scientists have documented some of the most carbon-dense forests on Earth. Unlogged forests generally capture and store 30-50% more carbon than logged forests with most of that capture accomplished by the oldest trees. A recent report by the Oregon Global Warming Commission has both good and bad news. The good news is Oregon’s forests currently are a net carbon warehouse – capturing more carbon then they emit – and that forest fires are not a big source of emissions. However, the capacity to store carbon has been greatly diminished by decades of logging, especially on state and private lands…

Researchers find some forests crucial for climate change mitigation, biodiversity

by Steve Lundeberg, Oregon State University December 9, 2019

A study by Oregon State University researchers has identified forests in the western United States that should be preserved for their potential to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration, as well as to enhance biodiversity.

 

Those forests are mainly along the Pacific coast and in the Cascade Range, with pockets of them in the northern Rocky Mountains as well. Not logging those forests would be the carbon dioxide equivalent of halting eight years' worth of fossil fuel burning in the western lower 48, the scientists found, noting that making land stewardship a higher societal priority is crucial for altering climate change trajectory…

Corporation Clearcuts Scenic Drive and Waterfall

by Dan and Micha of Myrtle Glen FarmTue, 11/26/2019

Currently, a clear-cut along the East Fork of the Coquille River is putting to test the laws that dictate the Oregon Forests Practices Act.  These outdated laws are supposed to prevent sedimentation in rivers, protect landslide-prone areas from washing out roads, and keep waterways shaded and cool for salmon and steelhead spawning. 

Let’s be clear, Weyerhaeuser, the corporation responsible for this operation, is likely operating under the letter of the law.  And this makes it a particularly...

Court Dismisses Lawsuit Against Oregon Wolf Delisting, Citing Change In State Law

by Monica Samayoa OPB - Nov. 27, 2019

The Oregon Court of Appeals dismissed a gray wolf delisting lawsuit Wednesday, citing a change in state law that blocked judicial review.

Conservation groups Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild sued the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife after its removal of the gray wolf from the Oregon Endangered Species List at the end of 2015.

At the time, the state’s wolves had established the minimum number of packs for officials to consider removing endangered species status and protections. But the conservation groups claimed the Department of Fish and Wildlife did not use the best available science to make the decision…

Expansion Of Cascade-Siskiyou Protections Was Invalid, Judge Rules

by Jes Burns OPB - Nov. 26, 2019

A federal judge has ruled that much of the expansion of Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in 2017 was illegal.

Timber counties in western Oregon and the timber industry challenged the expansion, as well as current Bureau of Land Management policy that reduces the amount of the state’s Oregon and California Railroad Lands (O&C Lands) available for commercial timber production. They argued that those public lands were set aside by Congress explicitly for logging, with a portion of the proceeds going directly to the counties…

Elliott State Forest tract sale was illegal, Oregon Supreme Court says

By The Associated Press Nov 27, 2019

SALEM — The Oregon Supreme Court has upheld an appeals court ruling that found the sale of a tract of the Elliott State Forest was illegal.

The ruling announced Wednesday upholds the appeals court decision last year that overturned the sale of 788 acres to the Seneca Jones Timber Company after environmental groups sued.

17 States Sue to Stop Trump Admin Attack on Endangered Species Act

By Olivia Rosane Sep. 26, 2019 07:07AM EST

A little more than a month after the Trump administration announced a major rollback of the Endangered Species Act, 17 states are suing to stop it.

 

The administration's changes would remove the blanket rule giving threatened species the same protections as endangered species, allow regulators to calculate the economic cost of protecting any given species and make it harder to protect species from the impacts of the climate crisis.

Taxpayers prop up the biggest carbon culprit in Oregon: timber

by Emily Green | 18 Oct 2019

Oregonians lose hundreds of millions of tax dollars a year subsidizing the forest industry. Enough, says John Talberth, of the Center for Sustainable Economy.

 

The Center for Sustainable Economy is calling attention to how taxpayers subsidize one of the greatest contributors to climate change in Oregon – to the tune of at least $750 million per year, according to its analysis.

The Portland-based think tank has determined big timber is topping the list of carbon emitters in the state, finding that industrial logging is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, researchers at Oregon State University and University of Idaho corroborated those findings.

While state officials have largely ignored these studies, the Oregon Global Warming Commission has been working with the Oregon Department of Forestry on a Forest Carbon Accounting Project aimed at calculating the net emission of carbon from logging once factors such as carbon stores in wood products are taken into account. Their final report is expected in June.

Internationally, nations including the U.S. have agreed to phase out environmentally harmful subsidies. This should include subsidies and tax breaks going to Oregon’s multibillion-dollar timber industry, which is emitting more carbon dioxide than the state’s transportation sector, argues John Talberth, senior economist at the Center for Sustainable Economy – especially considering the sale of Oregon timber is increasingly benefiting foreign investors.

Wolf post-recovery planning: Public input

WDFW is inviting the public to comment on the scope of a post-recovery plan for wolves in Washington. We will use the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process to develop the plan. This involves preparing a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will be available for public review. That document will evaluate actions, alternatives, and impacts related to long-term wolf conservation and management.

 

The first step of the SEPA process involves scoping, which helps us determine proposed actions, alternatives, and impacts to be discussed in the impact statement. Scoping improves decisions and encourages collaboration, cooperation, and early resolution of potential conflicts. It is intended to narrow the impact statement to the relevant issues.

 

Scoping is a public process and we encourage everyone to provide input.

The public scoping comment period for this process is open from August 1, 2019 through November 1, 2019.  Three live, interactive webinars were part of this process and recordings of each are below. They included a presentation, opportunity to ask questions, and information on how to submit comments. 

Why Keeping Mature Forests Intact Is Key to the Climate Fight

BY Fen Montaigne ​ Yale Environment 360 - October 15, 2019

Preserving mature forests can play a vital role in removing CO2 from the atmosphere, says policy scientist William Moomaw. In an e360 interview, he talks about the importance of existing forests and why the push to cut them for fuel to generate electricity is misguided
 

William Moomaw has had a distinguished career as a physical chemist and environmental scientist, helping found the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts University’s Fletcher School and serving as lead author on five reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In recent years, Moomaw has turned his attention to working on natural solutions to climate change and has become a leading proponent of what he calls “proforestation” — leaving older and middle-aged forests intact because of their superior carbon-sequestration abilities.

While Moomaw lauds intensifying efforts to plant billions of young trees, he says that preserving existing mature forests will have an even more profound effect on slowing global warming in the coming decades, since immature trees sequester far less CO2 than older ones. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Moomaw explains the benefits of proforestation, discusses the policy changes that would lead to the preservation of existing forests, and sharply criticizes the recent trend of converting forests in the Southeastern U.S. to wood pellets that can be burned to produce electricity in Europe and elsewhere.

Wild Carbon A synthesis of recent findings

Mark G. Anderson, PhD Northwest Wilderness Trust

We find ourselves not at the edge of a precipice, but beyond it. Climate change is altering the world as we know it, no matter how quickly we act to reduce our collective carbon footprint. But the worst impacts are still avoidable with natural climate solutions. Permanently protecting forests and allowing them to grow in landscapes free from direct human manipulation is proving to be one of the most effective and cost-efficient methods available to address the climate crisis. While wild nature has a right to exist simply for its intrinsic value, recent science is shedding peer-reviewed light on the exceptional carbon storage capacity of unmanaged land, and its equally important benefits for safeguarding biodiversity. In this short synthesis, ecologist Mark Anderson summarizes recent studies which demonstrate that in our fragmented, fast-developing world, wilderness offers the earth and its community of life the precious gift of time.

 

—Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director, Northeast Wilderness Trust

 

A long-standing debate over the value of old forests in capturing and storing carbon has prompted a surge of synthesis studies published in top science journals during the last decade. Here are five emerging points that are supported by solid evidence.

 

1) Trees accumulate carbon over their entire lifespan. Plants absorb carbon dioxide from air and transform it into carbon-rich sugars. These are then converted to cellulose to create biomass (trunk, bark, leaf) or transferred below-ground to feed the root-fungal networks. Over the long lifespan of the tree, large amounts of carbon are removed from the air and stored as biomass. Growth efficiency declines as the tree grows but corresponding increases in the tree’s total leaf area are enough to overcome this decline and thus the whole-tree carbon accumulation rate increases with age and size (Figure 1). A study of 673,046 trees across six countries and 403 species found that that at the extreme, a large old tree may sequester as much carbon in one year as growing an entire medium size tree (Stephenson et al. 2014). At one site, large trees comprised 6 percent of the trees but 33 percent of the annual forest growth. Young trees grow fast, but old trees store a disproportional amount of carbon…