Encourage Sustainable Forestry to Stabilize Carbon Stored in Soil

Bugaboo_Creek_Clearcut-TJWatt

Target: Thomas L. Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service

Goal: Incentivize sustainable forestry techniques to prevent the release of carbon emissions trapped in soil.

Harvesting lumber by clear-cutting destabilizes forest floors, increasing the likelihood that carbon stored in the earth will enter the atmosphere and contribute to global warming, according to a recent study from Dartmouth College. According to the school’s press release, researchers found that soil in areas with mature trees stored “significantly more” carbon than those recently clear-cut.

While the implications of that new research at Dartmouth must still be unpacked, the accelerating pace of climate change demands that we make the most use of our planet’s adaptive mechanisms. Conservation activists warn that we “have until around 2020” to make significant reductions in green house gas emissions and avert catastrophic climate shifts, reports Scientific American. If the research at Dartmouth is any indication, transitioning from clear-cutting to selective lumber harvesting will be a major part of protecting our soils, which are “the world’s largest terrestrial carbon pool.”

A transition away from clear-cutting does not have to mean an end to the lumber harvest. Rather, we can continue to benefit from nature’s bounty by engaging in uneven-aged silviculture. This practice entails identifying individual trees or groups of trees and harvesting them selectively. By leaving tree cover largely intact, selective harvests leave stabilizing protections for the soil in place.

The British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations notes that the soil benefits of selective harvest are derived from “the presence of a continual, variable canopy.” Moreover, the heterogeneous composition of a uneven-aged forest better resembles the natural woodland conditions, which produced “significantly more” carbon storage than their homogeneous clear-cut counterparts.

With research indicating the dangers of our current forestry practices and the existence of viable alternatives, it is time to act. Tell the U.S. Forest Service to protect our climate security be encouraging uneven-aged silviculture.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Thomas Tidwell,

Research conducted by Dartmouth University scientists suggests that conventional logging techniques, namely clear-cutting, jeopardize the integrity of forest floors and promote the release of carbon into the atmosphere. We urge you to promote more sustainable forestry practices in order to protect the earth itself, which Dartmouth says is “the world’s largest terrestrial carbon pool.”

The revelation of clear-cutting’s threat to soil integrity and the stability of sequestered carbon comes as we approach a threshold for catastrophic climate change. Scientific American reports that climate activists say we only “have until around 2020” to make significant reductions in greenhouse gas emission and avert serious effects of global warming.

Dartmouth’s researchers have revealed an important additional source of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. By acting on the information that they have gathered and reducing clear-cutting, we can better protect the greenhouse gases that our planet naturally removes from the atmosphere and ensure that they remain in place.

Logging remains a vital industry. However, the importance of the lumber harvest does not mean that in cannot be improved. The British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations notes the soil benefits of selective harvesting, in which specific trees or groups of trees are consumed but their neighbors left intact, which derive from “the presence of a continual, variable canopy” that shelters the forest floor. Moreover, the heterogeneous composition of selectively harvested forest better resembles the natural woodland conditions, which researchers said produced “significantly more” carbon storage than their homogeneous clear-cut counterparts.

To protect our environment and ensure its sustainability, please act on Dartmouth’s carbon storage research. We urge you to incentivize sustainable forestry techniques like selective harvesting.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: TJ Watt

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