Not sure where I fall on this one, but I do have some questions.
How can we be sure that a forest offset is really a permanent asset? Is anything envisioned that would allow the asset to increase in base value to the landowner as trees grow older, or to penalize a forest holder if they choose to strip-mine the trees they have allowed someone else to subsidize?
Are there any proposals to involve some form of public trust? For instance, could a landowner commit property to a government ?offset trust? where they would still own the wooded property, certified inspectors would estimate volume annually, and where there would be a poison pill financially if they (or subsequent owners) later tried to turn the trees into lumber (chips, etc.)?
I guess I would always worry that you would see some owner purchase a sequestered stand and see dollars in board feet without anything to make that environmental irresponsibility fiscally prohibitive. I look forward to listening in on the conversation.
This could be an interesting discussion with lots of misconceptions, I suspect. In fact it looks to me the discussion is based on a basic misconception of understanding forests and sequestration.
If we are interested in carbon sequestration an older forest will actually be likely to store more carbon in effect if it is cut down and turned into lumber and other forest products that will be put into buildings and other things that last a long time. The new forest that grows in its place will be storing new carbon and it will be doing it much more effectively than the old forest. So that new forest is not a large carbon sink but is important because it is removing carbon dioxide fast. Old forests store very little new carbon because the trees are not growing rapidly.
If we look at other values the older forests will provide some of those value such as wildlife habitat but as we see all over the interior west the insects and wildfire will eliminate those old forests on a large scale if they are not kept healthy. In the interior west with disturbance cycles of 30 to 50 years many of our forests are reaching that point where nature will produce some kind of stand replacement disturbance. On the west side of the cascades where disturbance cycles are 300 years we don't see that happening yet.
The problem is that the public thinks removing any wood from a forest is bad. This is a real issue since we can sequester lots of carbon and have healthy forests if we find a middle ground of managed forests, with thinning and other treatments that keep forests healthy. Overstocked forests are much more likely to being lost to stand replacement disturbances.
As I have discussed on this program before we in my small town are working to make charcoal and bio oils out of excess forest fuels. We than plan to work with farmers to sequester the charcoal into farm fields to sequester carbon for thousands of years and improve fertility and reduce the need for water in the farm fields and on rangelands. This of course also provides a source of heating oil that is carbon nuteral. This is an industry that could work in Oregon to provide a carbon negative value by using our forest excess production to solve lots of current carbon and energy problems.
So the answer to the question "What is an Uncut Forest Worth?" is a very complex one.
If as described here we are considering worth in terms of carbon credits:
1.A young forest 0 to 50 is worth a lot because it is sequestering carbon at a very rapid rate.
2. A middle aged forest 50 to 150 is also worth quit a bit because it is still sequestering carbon at a good rate and is a good carbon sink that will last for a long time.
3. An old forest 150 to 400 is the least valuable because it is likely to become unheatlhy and be replaced by fire or insect attack releasing the carbon in the sink. It becomes worth less the older it gets because with each passing year it becomes more likely to be replaced. (interior forests much sooner than west side forests) (this is of course contrary to the common desire of the public)
4. A removed old forest is valuable because the trees removed can be turned into products that sequester the carbon for many years in the future.
I look forward to the discussion.
I agree with you that there is a middle ground between conservation and harvest that needs to be found, and that there seems to be a lot of public misperception. I'm not sure I agree with you on the carbon sequestration points though.
Research paints a little different picture. While younger trees might eat carbon at a faster rate, older forests store more net carbon. Turning those trees into forest products isn't better than leaving those trees as much of the fibre is made into paper or other wise not put into long term storage. Don't listen to me though, do your own research. My source is Dr. Mark Harmon from OSU.
What is really exciting to me, is putting together a suite of off-sets, non-timber forest products like decorative greens and mushrooms, and high value timber like fine grain Douglas-fir, and specialty hardwoods.
At the Oregon Woodland Cooperative (www.orwoodlandco-op.com) we have focused on educating our members on a range of off-set opportunities, and other non-timber forest products.
Well I'm a third generation generate of OSU and am a forester for the USFS working on modeling with many researchers in USFS and DOE looking at that very problem in the Joint Fire Science Program.
As you know this is very complicated and as you state the balancing new sequestration vs stored carbon is a calculation that needs to be made. Also the risk of loosing those trees must be considered. So the balance of all this must be evaluated.
Researchers at OSU have done a lot of good work on this topic and their findings tend to suggest a few things that don't quite jibe with the previous post.
It is true that younger forests sequester carbon at a faster rate than older forests, but the math just doesn't work out when you start cutting down old growth and replanting trees in an effort to reduce overall global warming impact. The math doesn't work out because it takes over 100 years to get close to restoring the amount of carbon stored in a forest filled with big old trees. That's because old growth forests STORE carbon at a far greater capacity than do young forests.
I've seen in prior posts and heard on the show the concept that wood products can store some of the carbon when you cut down trees. It is true that wood products can store SOME of the carbon, but not that much and not for as long as a standing forest. The problem is that not all of the carbon stored in a forest is stored in the trees. Much of the carbon is pumped into the soil beneath the tree. When you log, the carbon release from the soil combined with the common practice of slash burning and the loss of carbon during processing, makes it so that only about 15% of the original carbon stored in the tree makes it to a wood product. Worse yet, that wood product could be a 2x4 which might have a somewhat long life (although not as long as a healthy forest) but it also could be paper or pallets which have very short lifespans and will likely be transformed into atmospheric carbon pretty soon down the road.
A whole different idea that has great merit if executed wisely is to incentivize private forest owners to let there forests grow longer and reduce the impacts they have on the soil when they do log.
Also, when we are talking about this concept of "what is a standing tree worth" let's remember two things. 1) Standing forests have all sorts of benefits for water quality for clean drinking water, species habitat, recreation opportunities and more. and 2) We shouldn't reduce our world-renowned forests to a simple game of economic calculation. Our forests, specifically the little old growth that we have left standing, are, in many respects, beyond economic measurement.
See more at: http://www.oregonwild.org/oregon_forests/global-warming-and-northwest-forests
Exactly what I was trying to say.
Well I don't question that old forests have lots of value but they have less value as a carbon sink because they are not absorbing much carbon and in fact they can even become negative when they near stand replacement because we will loose that carbon when nature chooses to replace that stand. It will happen to all stands eventually.
If we turn the waist into charcoal and bio fuel for example a much larger carbon amount can be sequestered.
A balanced approach is what we need.
A balanced approach, and recognition of the full range of forest products, including charcoal and bio-fuel, and other non-timber forest products. Carbon off-sets are only part of the "ecosystem marketplace". As some other commenters have said, there are clean-water, wildlife habitat and other off-sets that may be more important and useful in the big picture than carbon off-sets.
I love old growth forests and I want them to be preserved. But this math only works if you burn all of the old growth after cutting it down, or allow it to decay in some way. Just because you cut down an old growth tree doesn't mean that all of the carbon is going to be returned to the atmosphere. I've read research that shows that old growth forest respiration is not a net gain of carbon sequestering on a year by year basis, but does obviously hold previously sequestered carbon.
It is commonly believed that fast-growing young forests are better carbon stores than slow-growing old forests. The timber industry would have us believe that once a tree reaches maturity and begins to grow more slowly, we need to cut it down and replace it with another fast-growing young tree. In fact, this characterization of the relationship between forest age and carbon storage is inaccurate and incomplete.
Scientists have discovered that old forests continue to absorb CO2 even after tree growth appears to have slowed. This may be explained in part by the fact that old-growth trees send large amounts of carbon into the soil to support belowground ecosystems that help sustain them. One example of an interdependent relationship built on carbon transfer is older trees sharing carbohydrates with fungi in exchange for water and other nutrients.
First, only a small fraction of the carbon removed from logged forests ends up stored as durable goods and buildings. Most of the carbon ends up in the atmosphere after spending a short time as slash, sawdust, waste/trim, hog fuel, and non-durable goods like paper and pallets. Second, wood products have short ?life spans? compared to forests that are well protected from logging. Most wood products are essentially disposable. Wood products that can reasonably be considered durable (e.g. buildings) may in fact be less durable than the wood retained safely inside old-growth trees that can live to be hundreds of years old.
Many believe that forests are not good places to store carbon because forest fires release carbon. Certainly, forest fires do release CO2, but only a small fraction of the total forest biomass is lost to the atmosphere. Due to the incomplete combustion of large wood, 70-80 percent of the carbon in tree stems remains after forest fires and, globally, 23 times more carbon is captured by photosynthesis than is emitted by fires.
Managing our forest for mature and old-growth characteristics is the best way to maximize the carbon storage potential of our forests while also protecting invaluable salmon and wildlife habitat and sources of drinking water.
Thanks for this great post!! So maybe the right answer is to chop down old growth, seal it in plastic and bury it, so new growth can sequester more carbon... Kidding!!! Kidding!!! It just goes to show this issue is not bumper sticker simple, and convinces me that this carbon credit thing is a bunch of nonsense. We need to stop producing so much carbon emissions and stop kidding ourselves that we can buy absolution.
Well I don't agree that the carbon credit thing is nonsense but trying to do it in a living forest is not really the answer. That is why I have been advocating the biochar thing, it sequesters carbon for 10,000 years at least. Also I'm just trying to advocate for a bit more open concept of managing not going back to clear cutting or anything like that but using fuels reduction etc. to keep forests healthy and get charcoal and fuel in a responsible way.
If we do this we can replace some or much of our long cycle (fossil) fuels pretty fast with short cycle fuels for energy and sequester carbon long term at the same time.
Unfortunately I don't think we can depend on just reducing our consumption to solve the carbon problem. It would be good if we could but I don't see it. I think we need both.
Traildragerdriver: I had problems getting logged in, and this post may be lagging behind by this point. By way of introduction, for more than 10 years I have been a strong supporter of the use of thinning and prescribed fire to reduce fire risk and competition and to improve habitat in dry forests on the eastside. I also support using thinned material to produce wood products and for biomass, and am interested in learning more about producing charcoal and biofuels.
However, I?m afraid the published science on carbon storage by forests is contrary to much of what you offer in your post. Logging or thinning a forest, and processing trees into wood releases significant amounts of carbon. In the dry eastside forests, it appears that, even calculating in reduced emissions from wildfire in a treated forests, the net effect will be a release of forest carbon to the atmosphere. I don?t think this argues against doing restoration/fuels-reduction treatments, but we?re probably not going to be able to sell carbon credits to fund the work.
In moist forests typical of the Westside, the evidence is even more clear. You can?t just look at rates of sequestration, you also have to consider all the pools of carbon in the forest ? live trees, other live vegetation, coarse woody debris, forest floor and mineral soil. Logging a forest, especially an older one, releases large amounts of carbon to the atmosphere, a process that continues for decades due to the decay of roots, stumps, etc. A plantation doesn?t become a net sink of carbon until after a decade or so, and an intensively managed plantation forest, including wood products, won?t match the carbon stored in a forest that?s simply allowed to grow. Westside forests are significant carbon sinks for many hundreds of years.
Sorry I was offline working for a while. I'll try to respond to your questions now.
OK I'm on the eastside too. In most cases the way we use forest residues today does release lots of carbon.
This biochar process is very different for every ton of wood we get 400 pounds of charcoal and 1000 gallons of bio oil. Very little carbon is released in the biochar process. The charcoal will be put into the soil. (Based on the Terra Preta -Amazon Dark Earth concept where there is soil with 5000 year old charcoal in it at a rate of about 10 tons per acre) So that is highly carbon negative. This is about 50% of the carbon in the wood.
Then we make a fuel by condensing the smoke that comes off while making charcoal. We can use this bio-oil which can be used as heating oil almost as is (Need to treat it with Glisorol so it doesn't separate into heavy and light oils) or it can be further refined into biodiesel and methonol fuels for all kinds of uses. This is a carbon neutral fuel that can be used for other purposes. This 50% when burned will go back into the air.
The point is that most the carbon in forests will go back into the air in about a maximum of 600 years most in far less time than that. Obviously this is a cycle but a living forest depending on site will have a relatively stable average carbon sink over long periods of time and it won't increase no matter what we do. If you put charcoal in the ground it stays for at least 10,000 years which is its half life. Probably the best place to put that charcoal initially is in high production farm land but Los Alamos and other DOE labs are testing now how much good it would do to put it into range and forest lands that is less clear. At a rate of 10 tons per acre (a guess for now) we could produce many millions of tons of charcoal before the farmlands would be treated at that rate.
The good thing about removing the wood and processing it into soil is that it makes both short carbon cycle fuel and long term carbon sequestration, while making room in forests to grow more trees and sequester more carbon.
I would be glad discuss this directly if you want? I don't mind posting my email if you want to.
Sorry to be so slow to reply. If you send an email to: rammy54385 [at] mypacks.net I'll reply from my real email address and we can continue the conversation. Thanks.
I recall some research suggesting the NET climate effect of temperate region forest is modest when all is said and done. Including albedo changes from additional planting (particularly evergreen), and some soil carbon loss after logging. Really, the oceans and tropical forests have had the largest net effect. Regional variability and assessment difficulty may be be one reason Terrapass has snubbed tree planting projects. Clearly, though, sequestration enhancement is only part of the equation. Humans are currently releasing something like 26 gigatons of fossil CO2 (over 7 gigatons carbon equivalent) annually. As inconvenient as it might be, output reduction remains of primary importance.
While there is some tension between forest carbon storage (which tends to have a cooling influence on climate) and forest albedo (which tends to have a warming influence on climate), this trade-off is most pronounced in the boreal forests which might be replaced by highly reflective snow for long periods after forests are lost due to fire or logging. In the low-elevation temperate forest of the Pacific northwest, our forests are quickly replaced by new forests (not snow). Since our forests are dark green virtually all the time, we might as well store as much carbon as possible in them. From that standpoint our forests are much like tropical forests in terms of both carbon and albedo.
(Re: "an older forest will actually be likely to store more carbon in effect if it is cut down and turned into lumber...")
There are some assumptions here that have been thoroughly examined and rebutted in the scientific literature for more than a decade. Please see:
Mark E. Harmon 1, William K. Ferrell 1, and Jerry F. Franklin 1990. Effects on Carbon Storage of Conversion of Old-Growth Forests to Young Forests. Science Vol. 247. no. 4943, pp. 699 - 702
Vitousek, P. M. 1991. Can Planted Forests Counteract Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide? J Environ Qual 20:348-354
Here are some links to the abstracts:
What type of forest stores the most carbon most efficiently? Evergreen? Deciduous? If I have some small oak trees, should they be replaced with doug-fir or redwoods to absorb carbon faster?
Only second growth managed forests will act as carbon sinks. An old growth forest has very little carbon sequestering ability; and many have a negative influence. On an average site, Douglas-fir and western hemlock between ages 40 and 80 can sequester the most carbon (this age will vary by site class). By harvesting the forest, storage of the carbon continues as lumber, then the young, healthy growing forest can sequester more carbon.
TJ Hanson, PhD; Forest Ecologist.
This is the stupidest idea ever! It does nothing to reduce emissions and reminds me of the Catholic Church selling dispensations, the sins were still done, besides conifers produce SMOG has anyone thought about the rule in hospitals removing plants at night from patient's rooms, why? Because plants emit CO2 at night! This is just something like glass recycling to make the "inconvenient truth" crowd feel good. Bill Edell
If these wooklots are actually Christmas tree farms, then the owners will get 2 tax credits. Christmas trees already get a break until they actually harvest them. The trees aren't being raised for lumber, but will only be there for a few years.
The interview with the forester proved that his project does not satisfy the additionality criteria - that is, he cannot demonstrate that he would have cut down the forest in the absence of the payment.
Stanford researchers found that offset protocols, even under the strict regulations of the United Nations Kyoto Protocol, had failure rates on the additionality test of between one-half to two-thirds of the $20 billion in offset payments that were granted.
Offsets are not going to reduce global warming as much as cutting actual pollution. Offsets should not be allowed in compliance markets.
What is a sense of awe worth?
What I don't know is Ken Faulk going to/not going to log the trees, and is his selling carbon credits changing that decision?
Also, please correct the tense of your verbs. A 2x4 piece of lumber does not remove carbon from the atmosphere, it IS stored carbon.
Simple example: If I have a lawn, the lawn is sequestering carbon. If I were to mow the lawn and store the clippings in sealed containers, I should get a carbon credit. If I were to take the clippings and put them into my compost pile, the net carbon sequestering is practically zero.
Bob in Salem
I was recently at a presentation about vineyard management practices and there was discussion about how the vines convert CO2. I know we are talking about trees but would this same thing apply to other crops such as grape vines where the crop is permanent and not harvested every year?
Why just trees? Can't you get a good a carbon sink from bogs, wetlands or deep, stable organic grasslands?
As I mentioned in an earlier comment, water is a critical part of small woodlands, and maintaining or restoring wetlands is something small woodland owners can get paid for. Clean water is a critical issue for urban populations and small woodland owners and their forests are a part of the ecosystem that can provide that clean water.
While an ?uncut forest? may be a viable carbon offset, it is my opinion that in order for the carbon offset to be marketable commodity, id should be certified and insured (i.e. Swiss Re).
Trees burn, get cut and land changes hands. I feel in order for someone to capitalize existing acreage of forest, it needs to be part of an irrevocable trust and have previously listed assurances.
It is NOT true that a young tree sequesters carbon faster than an older tree.
Big trees add wood at a much faster rate.
I mentored a kid for a science fair project where he took the data and did the math.
Tree rings (layers, actually) do get thinner as a tree gets older, but each new layer covers the entire outside of the tree.
Each succeeding layer is larger than the layer inside on a healthy tree.
The increase in area more than compensates for the decrease in thickness.
The data showed that this was true, at least for Douglas Fir, regardless of how large the tree was already.
The very largest tree growth observed was on the outside of a log about 2 meters in diameter.
One of the best ways to store additional carbon is the restoration of estuaries. The constant inlux of nutrients from the ocean makes estuaries extremely productive with rapid plant growth. As the estuary marsh increases in elevation through the aggredation of sediments, huge quantities of carbon fixed by the plants get stored in the soil.
On the topic of wooden houses:
Should property owners be expected to purchase carbon offsets when they demolish a wooden structure, particularly an older structure where the carbon in that wood has been sequestered for, perhaps, 100 years?
Not only would we be losing an historic/cultural resource, but also a carbon sequestration resource.
I think forests have intrinsic value that, on some level, should be protected regardless of monetary value. Putting value on a forest is kind of like putting value on the air: we need it to live, and damage done to it reverberates outward, and affects us all. Doing this kind of damage is immoral.
I admire the forester's desire to sequester carbon, but should we pay to keep someone from doing something immoral, something that does damage to the ecosystem as a whole?
Can I get paid to not burn my trash in my front yard in the middle of Portland? Probably not, since doing so is just against the law, as a means of protecting air quality. Forests should be similarly protected.
An uncut forest is worth a lot, but in terms of reducing climate change and global warming, not having children, composting, turning yard waste into charcoal and putting it into the soil, riding a bicycle, etc., is worth a lot too. Not having children is probably the single most important thing people can do to reduce climate change/global warming. Anyone offering carbon credits for average people? If not, it starts to look like just another subsidy for the agricultural aristocracy.
Chris in Baker City
The worth of an uncut forest must also be based on the consumer side of the offset market. It seems that you have explored a lot of questions about how to honestly evaluate the carbon sequestration sinks. But can companies appear to offset their carbon foot print only to offloading their carbon producing activities to new corporate entities they create on control. Or can they offload them to contractors especially those in countries that do not pay much attention to carbon emissions. Also, just like the forestry issues, can there be "cheating" in the creative ways that entities measure their own carbon emissions.
I think the following post by Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild in another forum is relevant to this discussion. Thanks. Gary Braasch
This is from: http://forestpolicy.typepad.com/blog/2007/11/the-forest-serv.html
"There seem to be a lot of people out there who are critical of forest sequestration.
I think part of their motivation is to point out that forest sequestration is not going to allow us to continue fossil emissions as usual, and of course they are absolutely right about that. We have to aggressively limit fossil fuel emissions AND conserve forests.
Another common critique is that forests may someday switch from a net sink to a net source (implying "so why bother saving forests"). However, many people fail to realize that this fact alone should not change our strategy.
There are good reasons to conserve forests to mitigate climate change, whether or not they are net carbon sources or net carbon sinks, BECAUSE even if forests do switch to become a source, forest conservation is nonetheless essential in order to prevent a bad situation from getting worse. "Mitigation" includes not only absolute reductions of atmospheric carbon but any "avoided emissions," such as protecting forests so that as much carbon as posible stays in the forests instead of the atmosphere.
Even dead trees are a large and valuable carbon store. More than two-thirds of all the carbon in North American forests is NOT in living vegetation! This seems to imply that the useful life of "trees" extends to at least twice the lifespan of the old trees. Wood products rarely last this long in our throw away culture.
On another note: The USFS is remarkably silent on the carbon consequences of logging, especially old-growth forest logging. All the FS's carbon-climate attention is on young forests (that would grow anyway) and fire control (which we have very little control of).
Science tells us that we need to stop logging mature and old-growth forests, and when logging outside of old forests we need to extend harvest rotations and retain more live and dead trees when logging.
Check out Oregon Wild report on forests-carbon-climate here:
Doug Heiken | Nov 23, 2007 11:37:13 PM"
Is Heiken that extremist that hurt Oregon's economy by his obsessive activities? Funny, the timber owners are much more flexible than the narrow-minded, mega-environmentalist crowd. Why?
As and Oregon small woodland owner I would stand to benefit financially from the Oregon Small woodland sequestration proposal. However, in the interest of truly doing something to reduce our impact on the planet, I cannot get on board this smoke and mirrors proposal.
This feel good carbon credit thing is similar to encouraging recycling just so humans can consume more stuff. Oregon already has strict reforestation requirements as far a planting forests goes. Incentives already exist in terms of property tax deferrals. An existing forest is an existing carbon sink. To assign higher carbon credits to younger forests would only encourage a quick turn-around harvest cycle. There seems to be no discussion about the amount of atmospheric damage caused by the logging process. Chain saws, forest commutes, heavy equipment, log trucks, power/energy to process wood to lumber, slash and debris rotting and releasing their carbon...the list goes on. Most of the volume of a tree is left at the sight to rot and release carbon when harvest occurs.
Money would be far better spent instituting reforestation requirements similar to Oregon?s around the globe. Spend this carbon sink money investing in geothermal, solar, wind power, alternative power research and un-brainwashing the all consuming public. We?ve got to get off of this ?more stuff? mode. Anyone interested in a post prophetic read should dredge up Vance Packard?s book, The Waste Makers published in 1960. Ykes!
Red flags should be going up all over the place as this carbon credit forestry proposition is no different than most greed driven boondoggles-FOLLOW THE MONEY!
I agree that Oregon probably has the best reforestation rules on the planet! And the first! This is a timber state and it is sad how many outsiders come here and try to push us around. How about that owl? There are tons of them in other states. The same dang owl! I would love to see the Barred Owl come in and wipe out that ugly little spotted runt! That would be a win-win! A better looking bird, and more harvesting. Fanatics like Heiken should be sending all their income to te counties, which have been seriously injured by him and his ilk!
Evidently, the US Department of Defense thinks uncut Northwest forests are valuable too:
Comments are now closed.