Logging Is the Lead Driver of Carbon Emissions from US Forests

Logging Is the Lead Driver of Carbon Emissions from US Forests

SOURCE: Earth Island Journal and Open Access Research DATE: April 4, 2019 SNIP: Protecting forest ecosystems is critical in the fight to limit global warming — when forests are disturbed they release carbon, but when left to grow they actively pull carbon out of the air and store it. When left standing, forests also provide optimal natural protection against extreme weather events, like flooding and droughts. Many people are aware of the importance of protecting rainforests in Brazil to help mitigate climate change, but few realize that more logging occurs in the US, and more wood is consumed here, than in any other nation globally. The rate and scale of logging in the Southeastern US alone is four times that in South American rainforests. The Trump Administration and industry have been aggressively promoting misinformation about forests and wildland fires, while advocating for large increases in logging under the guises of “forest health,” “fuel reduction,” “renewable energy,” and reducing carbon emissions. But the promotion of logging to supposedly curb carbon emissions is just part of the Administration’s ongoing alignment with industry and troubling pattern of climate science denial. Carbon emissions from logging in the US are ten times higher than the combined emissions from wildland fire and tree mortality from native bark beetles. Fire only consumes a minor percentage of forest carbon, while improving availability of key nutrients and stimulating rapid forest regeneration. Within a decade after fire, more carbon has been pulled out of the atmosphere than was emitted. When trees die from drought and native bark beetles, no carbon is consumed or emitted initially, and carbon emissions from...
Climate change: Warning from ‘Antarctica’s last forests’

Climate change: Warning from ‘Antarctica’s last forests’

SOURCE: BBC DATE: April 3, 2019 SNIP: Scramble across exposed rocks in the middle of Antarctica and it’s possible to find the mummified twigs of shrubs that grew on the continent some three to five million years ago. This plant material isn’t much to look at, but scientists say it should serve as a warning to the world about where climate change could take us if carbon emissions go unchecked. The time period is an epoch geologists call the Pliocene, 2.6-5.3 million years ago. It was marked by temperatures that were significantly warmer than today, perhaps by 2-3 degrees globally. These were conditions that permitted plant growth even in the middle of the White Continent. Higher, too, were sea-levels. It’s uncertain by how much, but possibly in the region of 10-20m above the modern ocean surface. What’s really significant, though, is that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was very similar to what it is today – at around 400 CO2 molecules for every million molecules of air. Indeed, the Pliocene was the last time in Earth history that the air carried this same concentration of the greenhouse gas. And it tells you where we’re heading if we don’t get serious about addressing the climate problem. Temperatures may currently be lower than in the Pliocene, but that’s only because there is a lag in the system. Prof Jane Francis, the director of the British Antarctic Survey, pulled her fossilised shrub material from rocks just 500km from the South Pole. “These are twigs similar to southern beech,” she told BBC News. “I like to call them the remnants...
Iconic Forests Reaching Climate Tipping Points in American West

Iconic Forests Reaching Climate Tipping Points in American West

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: March 11, 2019 SNIP: Climate change in the American West may be crossing an ominous threshold, making parts of the region inhospitable for some native pine and fir forests to regrow after wildfires, new research suggests. As temperatures rise, the hotter, drier air and drier soil conditions are increasingly unsuitable for young Douglas firs and ponderosa pines to take root and thrive in some of the region’s low-elevation forests, scientists write in a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Wildfires in these areas could lead to abrupt ecosystem changes, from forest to non-forest, that would otherwise take decades to centuries, the study says. “Once a certain threshold was crossed, then the probability of tree establishment decreased rapidly,” said Kimberley Davis, a researcher at the University of Montana and lead author of the study. “The climate conditions are just a lot less suitable for regeneration.” Davis and her colleagues looked at growth rings of nearly 3,000 young trees in 33 fire-damaged areas of California, Colorado, the Northern Rockies and the southwestern United States to see when the forests recovered after fires over the past 30 years. Analyzing climate data over the same period, they found certain thresholds involving summer humidity for ponderosa pine, surface temperature for Douglas fir, and soil moisture for both species, beyond which there was a sharp decline in forest regrowth. The warmer, drier air isn’t harming mature trees, but it is preventing future generations from growing, Davis said. “There could be a lot of areas where there is currently forest but if we have a...
‘Whole thing is unravelling’: climate change reshaping Australia’s forests

‘Whole thing is unravelling’: climate change reshaping Australia’s forests

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: March 6, 2019 SNIP: Australia’s forests are being reshaped by climate change as droughts, heatwaves, rising temperatures and bushfires drive ecosystems towards collapse, ecologists have told Guardian Australia. Trees are dying, canopies are getting thinner and the rate that plants produce seeds is falling. Ecologists have long predicted that climate change would have major consequences for Australia’s forests. Now they believe those impacts are unfolding. “The whole thing is unravelling,” says Prof David Bowman, who studies the impacts of climate change and fire on trees at the University of Tasmania. “Most people have no idea that it’s even happening. The system is trying to tell you that if you don’t pay attention then the whole thing will implode. We have to get a grip on climate change.” Dr Joe Fontaine, an ecologist at Murdoch University, says forests across Australia are changing. “Impacts are direct – trees dying from heat and drought – as well as indirect – more fire, fewer seeds and a raft of associated feedbacks.” A study of the impacts of a heatwave in 2010 and 2011 in the south-west that followed long-term drops in rainfall found that the the large jarrah eucalypts and the area’s giant banksias were severely affected. A knock-on effect, another study found, was that the area became even more prone to fires. Bowman and colleagues have found that big eucalypts grow slower as temperatures rise and alpine ash forests are at risk of being wiped out because fires are coming along too often. Bowman says the idea that Australia’s forests are well adapted to the country’s variable climate...
Canada’s forests actually emit more carbon than they absorb

Canada’s forests actually emit more carbon than they absorb

SOURCE: CBC News DATE: February 12, 2019 SNIP: You might have heard that Canada’s forests are an immense carbon sink, sucking up all sorts of CO2 — more than we produce — so we don’t have to worry about our greenhouse gas emissions. This would be convenient for our country, if it were real. Hitting our emissions-reduction targets would be a breeze. But, like most things that sound too good to be true, this one is false. That’s because trees don’t just absorb carbon when they grow, they emit it when they die and decompose, or burn. When you add up both the absorption and emission, Canada’s forests haven’t been a net carbon sink since 2001. Due largely to forest fires and insect infestations, the trees have actually added to our country’s greenhouse gas emissions for each of the past 15 years on record. Canada emits roughly 700 megatonnes of CO2 each year. This does not include any impacts from forests or other parts of our landscape, such as wetlands and farmland. Canada has historically excluded land-use-related emissions and absorptions in its official accounting, and with good reason, if the goal is to reduce emissions on paper. That’s because our trees, in particular, have actually hurt our bottom line. For the past 15 years, they’ve been “more of a source than a sink,” said Dominique Blain, a director in the science and technology branch of Environment and Climate Change...