Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageCould regreening the Earth fight climate change? (Part 2)

By Karen Graham     Oct 22, 2017 in Environment
Forests have the greatest potential to cost-effectively reduce carbon emissions. They absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, removing it from the atmosphere. However, wildfires have devastated our forests globally and we need to take this problem seriously.
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed a study published in the journal Proceedings Of The National Academy of Sciences, that claims taking a natural approach to the regreening of the planet would be just as effective as stopping all fossil fuel production across the planet.
The study focused on three options for increasing the number and size of trees. Reforestation, avoiding forest loss, and better forestry practices could cost-effectively remove 7.0 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2030, equivalent to taking 1.5 billion gasoline-burning cars off the roads.
Firefighters near Gois in central Portugal  where even locals who are no strangers to forest fires s...
Firefighters near Gois in central Portugal, where even locals who are no strangers to forest fires say they have never seen such a devastating blaze
FRANCISCO LEONG, AFP
That is an impressive amount of carbon dioxide that could be removed in just 13 years. However, in the past several years, with a warming climate, prolonged periods of drought and extreme weather events, we have ended up having a marked increase in the number and intensity of wildfires.
A paper published in Science in 2006 found that “large wildfire activity increased suddenly and markedly in the mid-1980s, with a higher incidence of large-wildfire frequency, longer wildfire durations, and longer wildfire seasons.” This coincides with when most scientists argue that the effects of global warming began to be broadly felt.
A change in forestry management
So, let's look at the three options proposed by the authors in using nature itself, for mitigating the effects of climate change. But first, we have to look back on fire. Keep in mind that years ago, a fire was a natural part of many ecosystems, having a natural role in regeneration and maintaining landscape heterogeneity, plant and animal diversity, and nutrient cycling.
Hong Kong was once a quiet backwater of rural hamlets and fishing communities  where mountainous ter...
Hong Kong was once a quiet backwater of rural hamlets and fishing communities, where mountainous terrain dominated sparse human settlement
Anthony WALLACE, AFP/File
As the world's population has grown, settlement patterns have changed, along with economic practices and political pressures behind those practices. Forestry management, in turn, also changed. Where fire used to be a natural way to keep underbrush under control, preventing massive wildfires, this practice slipped by the wayside, in many cases.
Today we are seeing extensive fire suppression efforts, and along with current forest management, climate change, drought, disease, and damaging insects, this has led to a longer wildfire season, with fires that are bigger, more destructive and much more frequent than in past years.
Smoke rises off Highway 63 outside Fort McMurray  Canada on May 7  2016
Smoke rises off Highway 63 outside Fort McMurray, Canada on May 7, 2016
Cole Burston, AFP/File
Remember the Fort McMurray wildfire in Canada? “Everyone called it The Beast because it was so unpredictable,” recounts Sergeant Jonathan Baltzer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. “It would pick off two dozen houses and then it would leave three.… It was like it was taunting us, flaunting its power at will.”
Tools used in forest management today
Among the tools available in managing forests is the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS). It is actually a family of forest growth models using analytics along with a software system comprised of regional FVS variants, like climate and carbon stores, along with model extensions, a graphical user interface (called Suppose), and a suite of post-processing programs that allow stand visualization and customize output reports to meet user requests.
In 2016  the U.S. Forest Service celebrated reaching the planting of 60 million trees over the years...
In 2016, the U.S. Forest Service celebrated reaching the planting of 60 million trees over the years in our national forests.
U.S. Forestry Service
The FVS also has 20 variants extensions, based on geographical areas. FVS variants are calibrated for each of the major tree species within a geographic region and are also available to assess the effects of insect, disease, and fire. Interestingly, while the Trump administration has barred federal agencies from using the term, climate change, the phrase is a very important part of the U.S. Forestry Services FVS tools.
The Fuel and Fires Extension (FFE) links the FVS variant with models of fire behavior, fire effects, fuel loading, and snag dynamics. Model outputs include predictions of potential fire behavior and effects and estimates of snag levels and fuel loading over time. Snags are an important structural component in forest communities.
Snags refer to the dependency of the cavity-dependent wildlife species that use cavities in partially live or dead trees for various life functions. These creatures are referred to as cavity users or nesters and include representatives from all classes of terrestrial animals. The absence of suitable snags can be the major factor in limiting wildlife in a forest.
Aspens were mapped in this climate profile for the contemporary climate in 2009 using the climate mo...
Aspens were mapped in this climate profile for the contemporary climate in 2009 using the climate model extension.
U.S. Forest Service
Another extension, the Carbon Model, is part of the Fire and Fuels Extension to FVS and estimates the amount of carbon stored in various forest stand components, such as standing live and dead trees and surface fuels, over time. The Climate Extension to the Forest Vegetation Simulator, Climate-FVS, provides forest managers a tool for considering the effects of climate change on forested ecosystems.
Future climates as depicted for Aspen growth scenarios are shown in three GCMs in decades centered o...
Future climates as depicted for Aspen growth scenarios are shown in three GCMs in decades centered on 2030, 2060, and 2090.
U.S. Forest Service
Reforestation is the key to reducing carbon
Reforestation, either planned or as the result of wildfire, climate change, or insect and disease infestations, is vital to keeping the ecosystem in balance. Reforestation is a silvicultural treatment used to re-establish forest cover, thus initiating the restoring of forest function.
Replanting of trees will strengthen the forest structure, species composition, and the canopy that provides wildlife habitat, clean water, carbon sequestration, forest wood products for consumers, recreation opportunities, and maintenance of soil productivity through the reduction of soil erosion.
Planted trees in tubular tree shelters on a burned area.
Planted trees in tubular tree shelters on a burned area.
U.S. Forest Service
Countries around the world have taken the replanting of forests very seriously. In India last year, more than 800,000 volunteers from Uttar Pradesh planted 50 million trees. The volunteers worked for 24 hours planting 80 different species of trees along roads, railways, and on public land. The saplings were raised by local nurseries.
And in a story published in Yale University's Yale Environment 360 in August 2017, readers were told of New Zealand's efforts to plant over 130,000 trees to help offset the impacts of President Donald Trump’s climate change policies, creating what it calls the “Trump Forest.”
More about Environment, natural solutions, Forestry, carbon cuts, regreening