Tree Plantations Sequester Less Carbon Than Original Forests

3 03 2015

Much has been said in the current debate over the contentious New Brunswick forest strategy. At the same time a recent report shows that the province is lagging in attaining its target for reducing climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions, essentially carbon. But there tends to be no connection made between these two critical issues. However, one of the key factors in the dominant forestry practice in the province, clear cutting the existing forest and replacing it with plantations, in fact reduces the forest’s ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in the forest biomass. A recent report by a team of university researchers in the U.S., synthesizing 86 experimental studies (see Note), shows that plantations sequester 28% less carbon than the forests they replace, which means that every new plantation makes the goal of reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere all the more difficult to attain. In short, replacing natural forests with plantations leads to a worsening of the driving forces of climate change. So the forest industry’s refrain that plantations are good for the environment is misleading; yet another reason why the industry would be wise to end its out-moded methodology of clear-cutting followed by plantations, and turn to selective cutting in order to restore the diversity of the original forest, which in addition is much more productive and resilient than plantations.

(Note: Liao, C., Luo, Y., Fang, C., & Li, B. (2010). Ecosystem Carbon Stock Influenced by Plantation Practice: Implications for Planting Forests as a Measure of Climate Change Mitigation PLoS ONE, 5 (5))

Norval Balch Ph.D.

Lakeville Corner, N.B.




One response

17 03 2015

Can you say, briefly, why this is true?

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