Northwest Forest Plan has unintended benefit - carbon sequestration

Jul 23, 2011
Many public lands in these areas affected by the Northwest Forest Plan passed in 1993 are now sequestering more carbon as an unintended consequence of reduced harvest levels. (Graphic courtesy of Oregon State University)

The Northwest Forest Plan enacted in 1993 was designed to conserve old-growth forests and protect species such as the northern spotted owl, but researchers conclude in a new study that it had another powerful and unintended consequence – increased carbon sequestration on public lands.

When harvest levels fell 82 percent on public forest lands in the years after passage of this act, they became a significant carbon "sink" for the first time in decades, absorbing much more carbon from the atmosphere than they released. At the same time, private forest lands became close to carbon neutral.

Carbon emission or sequestration is a key factor in global warming, and a concept now gaining wider interest is the role of forest lands in helping to address concerns about the greenhouse effect.

Researchers at Oregon State University and the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the USDA Forest Service created these assessments with a new system that incorporates satellite remote sensing and more accurately simulates ecological processes over broad areas. It considers such factors as the growth of trees, decomposition, fire emissions, climate variation and wood harvest.

"The original goals of the Northwest Forest Plan had nothing to do with the issue of , but now is seen as an important ecosystem service," said David Turner, a professor in the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society.

"Forests provide many services, such as habitat protection, recreation, water purification, and wood production," he said. "Carbon sequestration has now been added to that list. And our approach can provide the kind of spatially and temporally explicit data that will help evaluate the potential trade-offs associated with management activities."

Previous estimates of forest carbon balance had suggested a significant loss of carbon from Pacific Northwest forest lands between 1953 and 1987, associated with a high rate of old-growth timber harvest. Those harvests peaked in the mid-to-late 1980s.

Forest fire is also an issue in carbon emissions, but researchers said in the study that the magnitude of emissions linked to fire was modest, compared to the impacts of logging. Even the massive Biscuit Fire in southern Oregon in 2002 released less carbon into the atmosphere than logging-related emissions that year, they said.

The findings are of some interest, researchers said, because the value of carbon sequestration is now something that can be better quantified in economic terms, and then incorporated into management decisions and policies.

This study was just published online in Forest Ecology and Management, a professional journal. The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and the interagency North American Carbon Program. The area analyzed included western Oregon, western Washington and northern California.

In earlier work, Turner and other researchers had found that carbon sequestration in Oregon, much of it from forests, amounted to almost half of the state-level carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Nationally, forest carbon accumulation offsets about 15 percent of U.S. fossil fuel emissions.

Explore further: Indians rally against climate change ahead of UN talks

More information: Study: ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/handle/1957/22032

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GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2011
forests only sequester carbon temporarily, and the balance of carbon stored only increases if the area becomes more densely forested. It's more accureate to call a forest a carbon store than a sink. The term sink applies only to something that takes more in than it releases. A mature forest is not a sink, it is neutral.

Another myth: forst fires do not release carbon into the air. The merely return some for a short time. In the process, a big fire actually turns lots of carbon into char in the soil, which is true sequestration. We should be systematically burning forests which are matures, then replanting them. (if carbon is really your biggest concerne, as opposed to disease, water supply, war, jobs, etc)
Caliban
1 / 5 (2) Jul 23, 2011
@G,

The amount of carbon sequestered by a forest is entirely dependent upon its composition biologically, its geographical locale, and the geochemical properties inherent in terms of substrate.

Native(non-planted)forests are ACTIVE carbon sinks,and do hold more carbon than they release. They are dynamic systems with much higher persistence than can be offset by the death of their individual components during their natural life cycles. Established forests that are adapted to their regional conditions persist for millions of years.

To suggest, as you have, that a forest exists in a one-to-one balance in terms of carbon uptake/release, and that burning adds more carbon to soil than to air are falsehoods, and in fact, by your terms, there ARE NO carbon sinks, since EVERYTHING -sooner or later- is subject to cycling.

Highly amusing to see you present the poorly "reasoned" personal arguments that support your ideologically-biased geopolitical worldview as FACT.

In FACT, pathetic.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2011
Native(non-planted)forests are ACTIVE carbon sinks,and do hold more carbon than they release.


Nope, only a tiny amount, and it doesn't matter if they are planted or natural. In fact, the fast-growing trees that are planted for paper production take in carbon much faster than slow growing trees. Haven't you been reading the journals? Rainforests are huge ghg sources, not sinks. Boreal forests are nearly neutral. Only the leaves and needles that get washed into the ocean or a lake get sequestered permenantently. All the rest decomposes or gets eaten by bugs.

YOu can't provide a single scrap of evidence to support your pathetic agenda driven view of reality. I feel sorry for anyone stupid enough to believe your nonsense.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2011
and that burning adds more carbon to soil than to air are falsehoods


Burning is the ONLY way that carbon gets added to the soil in a form that remains there for more than a few weeks. Biomass ALWAYS decays and then either vents out to the air of is carried away with water. It is extremely rare for archeaologists to find mummified biomass. The conditions must be JUST right. Dig a hole a couple feed down and you hit clay. That's the extent of the carbon cycle. The clay isn't part of it. A forest will not continually increase the amount of topsoil. There is a finite limit based on the local climate. It is a sef-regulating system in dynamic equilibrium. The more rotting stuff you have, the more microbes, bugs, fungus, etc you will have to cosume it. Then it's back into the atmosphere for the carbon, in the form of methane usually.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2011
here's a pro-agw site that explains it all very clearly. Don't take my work for it. I can find hundreds of papers to back up what this pdf says, if you want me to.

http://wilderness...ling.pdf

In FACT, what you suggest is patently silly. If forests were a carbon sink and they didn't return just as much carbon to the air as they take in, then there wouldn't be any life on earth, because the plants would all have suffocated millions of years ago. You are a dolt.

The only real carbon sink is the ocean, where biomass falls to the sea floor and eventually becomes new oil, coal and natural gas.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (2) Jul 23, 2011
Here's another great reference for you. This one is from wikipedia, another very pro-agw web site. Take note of the diagram right at the top of the page. On the left side, they show flux numbers going into and out of a forest. They show 121 going in, and 60 60 going out, but I think they are rounding up a little. The actual numbers I've seen are less than a percent. Enjoy, and shut the heck up, loser.

http://en.wikiped...on_cycle
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2011
and here's a paper from the USGS that says forests are not only a poor carbon sink, but also a heat source due to albedo:

In addition to establishing that jack pine forests are a weak, perhaps ephemeral, sink for atmospheric CO2, the USGS team found age dependent differences of carbon sequestration with younger forests drawing about 20% more CO2 than mature stands. The USGS and other BOREAS science teams found that evapotranspiration from these forests was considerably less than originally thought while heat flux to the atmosphere was considerably more


http://geochange....bon/ghg/

The study was done joinly by USGS, NOAA, EPA.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2011
Here's another source from wiki:

Forests are carbon stores, and they are carbon dioxide sinks when they are increasing in density or area.


They are only sinks when they are growing larger or denser.

http://en.wikiped...bon_sink

Farmland actually makes a better sink, because the nitrogen we add artificially enables the biomass to be converted to minerals, which sequesters carbon almost permanently.

I'm sure I can provide a sourve to back that up too. I could do this all night long, but do I need to? Is anybody going to believe a word you say, after so many credible sources showing that you're an idiot?
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2011
I will admit that I did find one study on Nature that said they though that SOME old growth forests might continue to be a sink until they are as old as 800 years, but that's exremely rare and they found that even in those cases, the rate of sink was very small and could even be accounted for by error in thier study. I wouldn't call that a victory for your side. lol. Even in that very optomistic study, they found that all forests are neutral after 800 years and that MOST forests are neutral MUCH sooner. The only ones that were an exception were the big hard wood tree forests. That's not a significant portion of global forests though.
Caliban
1 / 5 (2) Jul 23, 2011
here's a pro-agw site that explains it all very clearly. Don't take my work for it. I can find hundreds of papers to back up what this pdf says, if you want me to.

http://wilderness...ling.pdf


An excellent citation, G, that validates everything I said.
I don't know what the hell you are reading, but either you are reading something entirely different, or else completely and utterly misunderstanding what you are reading- which I suspect is actually the case, and intentional, to boot.

The Article clearly says -just to give a couple of examples- that only about 10% of biomass is converted to charcoal, and that forests keep most of the carbon they contain locked up in biomass and in the organic part of soils.

This cycling of carbon is a closed loop, that doesn't contribute to the atmospheric balance of carbon EXCEPT for in the instance of burnoff.

contd
Caliban
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 23, 2011
contd

And there have many-orders-of-magnitude more acres of forest burned off for human purposes in the last century and a half than would have naturally occurred without human intervention, not to mention the massive conversion of forest to agriculture during prehistoric and classical times.

Add to that the trillions of tonnes of carbon released by the combustion of fosiil fuels, where they would have otherwise remained sequestered until some geophysical force released them, and we're talking a massive overburden of atmospheric carbon, primarily in the form of CO2.

Since the amount of forest, globally, is rapidly decreasing
-with no end, much less reversal, in sight- the amount of carbon sink available for uptake of atmospheric carbon is also decreasing, which compounds the seriousness of the situation. All of which is caused by humans.

Thus, AGW.

Don't pretend to objectivity while pursuing your denier agenda here, and expect to go unchallenged.

GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2011
An excellent citation, G, that validates everything I said.
I don't know what the hell you are reading, but either you are reading something entirely different, or else completely and utterly misunderstanding what you are reading- which I suspect is actually the case, and intentional, to boot


from the source:

Some carbon goes right back into the atmosphere as the tree respires but, if it stays, then it may remain sequestered in the tree throughout its life whether that is 10 or 500 years.


continued:
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2011
Besides, that was the weakest of all my references. It was just an idiot's guide to the carbon cycle, because I figured you needed the basics. My other sources are much more clear, but I see that you are ignoring them.

Then in your second post, you're changing the subject to manmade intervention. We were talking about natural forests in their mature state as carbon sinks or not. I still challenge you to provide a single reference to support your assanine view that a mature forest is a significant carbon sink.

All the literature says that a mature forest is a store, and it is neutral, or very nearly neutral, so close to neutral that it's hard to tell if it's positive or not.

It's unfortunate that tree huggers are confusing the issues, because forests are a great thing. I love them. The value of a forest just isn't due to carbon sequestration. The real value of a forest is so much more, and we should protect them for the real reasons. It's not about carbon in this case.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2011
]The Article clearly says -just to give a couple of examples- that only about 10% of biomass is converted to charcoal, and that forests keep most of the carbon they contain locked up in biomass and in the organic part of soils


That's 10 percent of a forest's biomass which gets essentially permanently locked into the soil after a big fire. The part that is released into the air by the fire will get sucked back up into the forest as it regrows. That's a natural cycle. It's neutral except for the part that gets turned into char and stays in the soil almost permanently (for thousands of years at least). Non-char biomass in the soil is much less permanent, and is in equilibrium as I stated above. All the literature says so. Even the most pro-agw people agree with that. That is "settled science" and you can even find it in the IPCC reports. Do you want a reference to that too? I'll be happy to find it if you really want me to spend a couple hours slodging through the 4th AR.
Caliban
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 24, 2011
I see you continue to "understand" the carbon dynamics of a forest in your ass-backwards way. You've completely inverted the import of what those sources are saying, which can only be interpreted as deliberate distortion to serve ideology.

All of the living biomass of a forest ecosystem- whether represented as plant, animal, or organic matter entombed by soil, represents a sink of what would otherwise be Atmospheric Carbon. The fact that it is an open system doesn't equate to negative balance in terms of carbon uptake and release -what matters is the carbon represented by the biomass itself.

Rather than rely upon your at best inadequate understanding and at worst willful misunderstanding, why don't you talk to an ecologist or forest scientist, since you are obviously not "getting" the concept.

You can read all the peer-reviewed research and government agency publications you want, but if you don't understand them, then you are wasting not only your time, but everyone else's.

Dichotomy
not rated yet Jul 25, 2011
Wow, you two have been really going at it on this thing. While I don't agree with all the points GSwift has made, his points at least fall within the realm of common sense. If the data is correct (and not biased or altered) then his/her arguement about some of the more questionable things like fires may hold up.

Caliban however does not appear to be on solid ground here. The position that "Native(non-planted)forests are ACTIVE carbon sinks,and do hold more carbon than they release" distinugishes that planted forests are not active carbon sinks which doesn't make sense and isn't supported by the available research. Like all forms of life, those that are growing to maturity will consume more than those at maturity. This "common sense" is validated by the research that shows its the planted forests that are more active than the matured/native at absorbing carbon. If we re-energized our logging industries, the environment would benefit as the logged mature trees are replaced.
Dichotomy
1 / 5 (1) Jul 25, 2011
Furthermore, we all learned in undergraduate logic class that bias is usually evidenced by those who attack those who make an arguement rather than the arguement itself. Caliban your initial attacks against GSwift as "poorly reasoned personal arguements" as well as "pathetic" were uncalled for and unprofessional. Many of your posts since have been based on unproveable premises. For instance you assume "And there have many-orders-of-magnitude more acres of forest burned off for human purposes in the last century and a half than would have naturally occurred without human intervention" but we have no idea what would have naturally occured without human intervention. Take for instance the massive fires in Russia recently. Had it not been for human intervention those fires would have burned far more than the did. The same is true for fires started by lightning in California during the dry months. cont.
Dichotomy
not rated yet Jul 25, 2011
cont.

Dams help mitigate potential damage from flooding when built with proper foresight, etc... The fact is no one is able to prove what would have happened had things been differently for thousands of years.

Furthermore the "a massive overburden of atmospheric carbon, primarily in the form of CO2" you refer to is questionable based on the geological evidence. The planet has experienced much more severe global warming than what humans are causing. The ice caps have melted 2-3 times before the current melting period we're in, all without "human intervention". No one knows for certain how it is we cooled back down each of those times (there are viable theories), or what it was that caused us to become so globally warmed the previous times (fewer viable theories). cont.
Dichotomy
not rated yet Jul 25, 2011
cont. While its understood we are helping to warm the planet, how much our actions are contributing as part of the whole are not understood by anyone (no scientist has yet to reliably quantify). Until that determination is made, we have objective little reason to act. In many cases our actions to help the environment have caused more harm than good due to a variety of factors ranging from poor planning to poor comprehension of the effect of our well intentioned actions.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 25, 2011
All of the living biomass of a forest ecosystem- whether represented as plant, animal, or organic matter entombed by soil, represents a sink of what would otherwise be Atmospheric Carbon. The fact that it is an open system doesn't equate to negative balance in terms of carbon uptake and release -what matters is the carbon represented by the biomass itself


You continue to fail. You are incorrectly using the term 'sink'. A sink is a thing that takes in more than it releases. A mature forest is a carbon 'store', not a sink. It is a 'sink' before it is mature, when it is still growing, mainly in the first 50 to 300 years after a large fire. Once a forest reaches maximum density, it is no longer a sink, but merely a carbon neutral 'store'.

My agenda is to get you to correctly use the words. Nothing more.

You are the one who doesn't even understand the simplest terms in the literature. Do yourself a vavor and look up the definition of 'sink' and 'store'.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 25, 2011
to Dichotomy:

Thanks for your thoughtful, agenda-free, input.

While I don't agree with all the points GSwift has made


If you would like to discuss anything in particular, I'd be happy to provide references, in addition to the ones I've already posted. Can you be specific about which parts of my comments you a skeptical about? You must be carefull when reading references from the EPA, in regard to forests, because they only talk about storage potential, rather than flux. If you want to see articles about whether a mature forest is a sink or neutral, then you have to specifically look up papers about "flux" rather than storage potential. The wiki page on flux shows it very clearly on their diagram.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 25, 2011
managed forests blow natural forests out of the water when it comes to growth rate and therefore carbon uptake rate. The managed forests are planted with a deliberate spacing to maximize growth rate and maximize land cover percent. Then the timing of when they clear the land back off to start over, is also maximized, so that the trees are always in the 'sweet spot' for growth rate. Once a tree and its neighbors get too big, they start to crowd eachother for water, light, nutrients, and even air. Then its time to cut them down and replant a bunch of fast growing saplings again. Otherwise they start to kill eachother off due to overcrowding, and as far as carbon goes, you don't want deadfall rotting on the ground. Here in SC, you can see them do it every day. The lot next door to my house is about to be cut, as a matter of fact, according to the owner.
Caliban
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 25, 2011
G,D,

Right, then. Pardon me for interrupting the two of you in the middle of your stroke fest. Don't worry, though, as it will only take a moment to point out that TWO wrongs don't make morons right.

Feel free to continue to pretend to some kind of authoritative understanding. It will no doubt add to the thrill of your mutual happy ending.

Howhot
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 25, 2011
Caliban, Screw these A-HOLES. They are just paid by the word R-Wing hacks that got there Jobs from an ad in Craigs lists. They are not real caring people that give a shit.

Enjoy the 130F heat index A-Holes.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011
Okay, fine. Let's see what the IPCC has to say about it. This is from the 4th AR, section 1.3.3.2, paragraph 3.

However, NEP measurements over periods of up to 5 years in northern Canada in the BOREAS experiment (Sellers et al., 1997), in Siberia (Schulze et al., 1999), and in northern Europe (Valentini et al., 2000) have demonstrated that a few old-growth coniferous stands may be carbon neutral (Goulden et al., 1998) and in warm and cloudy years can be a carbon source (Lindroth et al., 1998), losing carbon at a rate of up to 1.0 t C ha-1 yr-1.


As I said above, most forests are thought to be slightly carbon negative, and therefore small sinks, but there are rare exceptions where they can be carbon sources. The IPCC also found that managed and selectively logged forests sequester carbon at up to double the rate of pristine forests, though it's usually not that much of a difference.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011
Here's another intersting fact about forests from the IPCC:

In the course of a day, carbon sequestration essentially follows solar radiation (provided there is no major constraint such as frozen or dry soil): Carbon is accumulated during the daylight hours and lost at night.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011
Here's another from IPCC. By disturbance, they mean logging or fire:

Initially the disturbed area is likely to be losing carbon to the atmosphere (the length of this period depends on species, site conditions, and degree of disturbance), but the trees that subsequently occupy the site fully will eventually replace the lost carbon (Krankina et al., 1999). Carbon will then again accumulate during a phase of rapid growth that may last for centuries or at least decades, depending on the species of trees and site conditions (Buchmann and Schulze, 1999). Overmature forest stands take up carbon from the atmosphere at slower rates. Nonetheless, forest stands can become net sources of carbon to the atmosphere-for example, if soil temperature abruptly increases (Peterjohn et al., 1994) or the soil becomes more aerobic after drainage (Lindroth et al., 1998), thus promoting oxidation of soil organic matter.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011
Notice the part where they say "Carbon will then again accumulate during a phase of rapid growth that may last for centuries or at least decades".

That's the 'sweet spot' for carbon uptake, which I was talking about above. That's when a forest is doing the most good for us. Once it gets past that, it slows down until it eventually max's out and goes nearly neutral.

So, in the above story, when they say that decreased harvest rates are sequestering more carbon, that's technically true, but it's only a short term gain, then it max's out at the new max level and you're back to a nearly neutral flux again.
Caliban
1 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011

Go on.

The more you try to justify your elaborate misconstruction of the science, the more morally compromised, desperately fraudulent and stridently lying you reveal yourself to be.

Careful you don't end up swinging from the end of your own rope...

GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2011
My references are clearly posted, and they are official references. You have nothing but four letter words in response, and now a death threat? Nice. I hope the web site banns you.
Caliban
not rated yet Jul 29, 2011
My references are clearly posted, and they are official references. You have nothing but four letter words in response, and now a death threat? Nice. I hope the web site banns you.


And those references are quite clearly at best misunderstood, and at worst intentionally misrepresented.

You know, G --ordinarily, I(and I think most others) consider an autodidact to be a person of more than just ordinary merit, to be applauded for making the effort to develop a real understanding of things that lie outside the area of their personal expertise in order to get at the truth, for the truth's sake.

This is why your representations here are so disappointing to me -I can tell that you possess the intellectual capacity to understand the subject at hand- yet you still persist with ideology-driven distortion of the science.

Meanwhile, your (I hope) willful misinterpretation of a common metaphor regarding comeuppance I will let stand as further evidence of your intellectual dishonesty.