Less Dense Forests Better For Curbing Greenhouse Gases

Foresters have cool jobs. They get to wear flannel duds to work; if they're lucky spend the best of their days in nature; and they tend to have great parties at university. We can imagine though, being a Forester is tricky business. On one hand they initiate and conduct scientific and environmental research but on the other, they still have to cow-tow to big industry and wants of their respective governments. A Canadian university has uncovered interesting findings that may give loggers the power to change selective cutting practices. A Queen's University teacher, Neal Scott, the Canada Research Chair in Greenhouse Gas Dynamics and Ecosystem Management, has revealed surprising results about gas exchange in forests: he says forests act like bank accounts for gas and that fewer trees in a forest can actually absorb more greenhouse gases. According to a Canadian Research Council report (NSERC) Scott and other scientists studied what happened in a Maine forest when one-third of a stand of young trees was removed. They compared the carbon dioxide absorbed by the remaining trees to a stand that had not been harvested. And although we couldn't find a link to a scientific journal, more information about this research can be read here.They found that the remaining trees in the harvested areas were more efficient at taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. At the rate the trees are growing now, the harvested stand may continue to accumulate carbon faster than a nearby unharvested stand, they say. "This has huge implications for forest management practices," said Scott, "because now we may be able to better harvest trees and minimize harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Trees absorb so much of the world's pollution, especially carbon dioxide. It would be ideal to develop management practices that increase our production of wood and protect the ecosphere at the same time."

Here at TreeHugger we advocate more trees means more hugs and are skeptical (a bit) about this research. We'd love to see more independent corroboration from other institutions on these findings.

And another TreeHugger commented on this research: Sure young trees absorb more greenhouses gases individually, but since there are less of them after a harvest, does the forest as a whole absorb less greenhouse gas?

To engage yourself in these kinds of questions (and more), and a life in a red flannel Roots shirts, try University of Toronto, Forestry Department for a highly recommended 16 month Masters of Forest Conservation.

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