Carbon Forest Management?

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Tue Oct 13 11:25:48 EST 1998

In article <19981012203747.28942.00000267 at>,
  kmorrisd at (KMorrisD) wrote:
> Carbon Forest Management?
> I had a very interesting experience recently. It was a meeting with a
> neighbor to a property that I recently marked for a timber sale. She
> was opposed to the idea of a cutting operation where she has hiked and
> skiied for years. I went through all the usual reasons for the cutting
> operation: harvesting mature trees, thinning around trees with higher
> value potential, diversifying wildlife habitats, reversing the effects
> of decades of high-grading, improving access for fire protection and
> recreation...She wasn't impressed.
> Then I started talking about climate change and management for carbon
> sequestration and fossil fuel substitution, plus `weather proofing` the
> forest against storm damage. All this made sense to her because she had
> been reading about climate change and had some bad snowstorm damage on
> her own property a couple years ago. I've done some writing on this
> subject, so I told her I'd send her copies of the articles. She liked
> that idea. Then she asked me if I'd come take a look at her property!
> So I find myself wondering if I have to totally re-orient my approach to
> management! I'm also wondering if we foresters aren't missing an
> opportunity here with landowners and the general public. Is it just a
> few people like this one, or are there lots of people who are ready to
> hear about climate change and the role that forests can play in
> mitigating the effects? Also, do we perhaps have something very
> valuable to offer society in terms of our understanding of carbon cycles
> and how forest management techniques can reduce the amount of it in the
> atmosphere?
> Karl Davies, Consulting Forester
> Northampton, MA

Excellent post Karl! Yes, forests are also carbon sinks. But more
importantly, older-growth forests that withstand environmental conditions of
the area sequester carbon for longer periods of time, which actually means a
point for managing for old-growth forests in the coastal areas of the Pacific
Northwest. These are exactly the areas where the largest trees in the world
are also found: Sequoia sempervirens, Sequoia gigantea, Thuja plicata, Picea
sitkensis, Pseudotsuga menziesii, etc. When such trees are managed for
long-term production instead of short-term gain, then crowded conditions
similar to "natural" also come into play.

Please note that these conditions don't always make sense from a logging
standpoint: The increased, sometimes excessive biomass buildup can be cause
for alarm if the forest is subject to "hot" forestfires. But "cool" fires
actually strengthen the system, and remove only the building of biomass less
than 3 inches in diameter. Unfortunately to effectively manage such areas, it
is necessary to have understory fires every 3-5 years. And the smoke would
not be allowed now as it was during the days when Native Americans were doing
exactly the same thing to assist elk and deer hunting (no brush means greater
distance to see the game, especially during bad weather such as snow storms
when game tends to congregate under full-canopy forests for wind protection).

An advantage to larger diameter woody debris buildup is that it provides cover
for countless endangered species of salamander and amphibians, food for birds
and insects; and acts as water reservoirs during periods of drought.

But I'm not sure this would apply to eastern forest management. The only old-
growth forests I've seen pictures of came from Pennsylvania, I believe, where
gigantic chestnuts were still abundant. Then came the chestnut blight, which
probably hitchhiked over here on some chestnut seedling was was largerly

The western chestnuts are so inter-hybridized now that I'm not sure if a
single "species" exists. Then again, if the species hybridize freely, were
they ever separate species to begin with?

Daniel B. Wheeler

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