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.
posted 4 years, 9 months ago
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