Can US forestry mop up all US CO2 emissions?

dwheeler at teleport.com dwheeler at teleport.com
Sat Dec 5 03:31:11 EST 1998


In article <MPG.10cfdf8bdda32d21989c82 at news.teleport.com>,
  larryc at teleport.com (Larry Caldwell) wrote:
> In article <7417jv$mt4$1 at nnrp1.dejanews.com>, dwheeler at teleport.com
> writes:
>
> > You are using as a model US forests which have been around for a while. But,
> > as research done at OSU has shown, higher CO2 concentrations actually
> > encourage trees to grow 2-3 times their normal rate, thus showing that trees
> > _can_ remove considerably more CO2 than previously believed.
>
> > Thus rapid-growing trees such as Red alder (Alnus rubra), hybrid cottonwoods,
> > and the new hybrid willows can grow up to 13 feet per year for at least 15
> > years. This produces trees which sequester CO2 _much_ more rapidly than
> > before.
>
> That is wonderful, but when the world production of fossil fuels releases
> more carbon than is contained in the active biosphere of the earth every
> decade, a few faster growing trees isn't going to do much.  The only way
> to stop the inexorable buildup of atmospheric CO2 is to quit burning
> fossil fuels.
>
Good point Larry.

Mine is simply that the atmosphere is still going to need to get rid of that
excess CO2 before things return to (normal). The best way to do this, even
though it may take centuries, is to grow trees as long as possible.

> > Also, remember that fossil coal deposits probably came from extensive
> > forests, based on the numerous plant fossils found therein. I suspect, but
> > cannot prove, that in years long gone, the earth had considerably higher CO2
> > concentrations. This would make forest fires unable to function, since they
> > must have at least 18-20% atmospheric oxygen to burn. Increased atmospheric
> > CO2 would effective decrease the oxygen percentage, thus stimulating forests
> > world-wide while increasing the world-wide temperature.
>
> > What is know for a fact, is that during the Permian and Pennsylvanian huge
> > quantities of coal beds were established, probably on any land then above
> > sea- level. Such forests as established the coal beds could not exist in the
> > presence of wide-spread forest fires.
>
> Most coal beds are the remains of peat beds.

While peat can certainly before coal, peat beds are not common world wide.
Here in Oregon, some peat bogs are known. But dense forests are far more
abundant.

  Sometimes the peat beds
> supported forests above them, sometimes not.

Few tree species can survive the extremely acidic environment peat produces.

  The important thing is the
> presence of an acid, wet anaerobic zone where plant matter can sink and
> be preserved.  I understand that even in the UK where peat beds were
> common, drainage projects have led to the rapid reduction of peat layers.
>
> Volcanoes have been steadily ejecting carbon dioxide and methane for
> hundreds of millions of years, which is where many of our carbon and
> carbonate deposits got their raw materials.  It's doubtful that all that
> carbon was ever in the biosphere at once.
>
> And in the carboniferous, the oxygen content of the earth's atmosphere
> was quite a bit higher than it is currently.  We know this because it
> supported huge insects that would choke to death in our own atmosphere.
> Insects breath through gas diffusion and spiracles, which is a very
> inefficient means of respiration.  A 20 cm dragon fly just could not
> exist today.
>

You present exactly the case I had hoped, Larry. The Permian 40cm dragon fly
(20 cm? they were much larger)could only exist in very oxygen rich
environments, such as forests would provide. While dragonflies also like
ponds, they are more likely to be fond in streams.

Many of the tree fossils found in coal deposits are unknown from bogs. Where
did this fossil wood come from if not from forests?

Daniel B. Wheeler
http://www.oregonwhitetruffles.com

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