Monday, August 30, 2010
Living In The World's Greatest Carbon Sink
The satellites have spoken. The world's tallest forests and, hence, the world's largest carbon sinks, are those along the Pacific Northwest from California straight through British Columbia. From McClatchey Newspapers:
The temperate forests of Douglas fir, Western hemlock, redwoods and sequoias that stretch from northern California into British Columbia easily reach an average height of more than 131 feet. That's taller than the boreal forests of northern Canada and Eurasia, tropical rainforests and the broadleaf forests common in much of the United States and Europe. The only forests that come close are in Southeast Asia, along the southern rim of the Himalayas and in Indonesia, Malaysia and Laos.
Scientists suspect that the forests with the biggest trees store the most carbon, and the Northwest forests are probably among the largest carbon sinks in the world. However, they also say that while slower-growing older trees store more carbon, younger trees also absorb more carbon as they grow rapidly.
That sets up a debate about how forests should be managed, particularly whether older trees should be cut to make way for younger ones or whether they should be protected to store the carbon they contain.
Carbon absorption by trees in the Northwest tapers off as they reach from 30 to 70-years of age which is about the time it takes to grow commercial softwood. This study will probably help the pro-logging lobby but those of us wanting to preserve the remaining old growth forests will just push back that much harder.