Old Growth Trees Sequester More Carbon, Help Prevent Wildfires
According to new research conducted in Oregon, USA, old-growth forests sequester 50% of the above-ground carbon and help prevent wildfires from starting.
As we progress through the 21st century, one of the most important issues of our time is carbon. We create much of it by burning fossil fuels, extracting natural resources, or simply by living our day-to-day lives; we create carbon.
We create much more of it than we should, and the research into climate change backs this up. Many of us have devised innovative ways to counteract and slow down our carbon output, while good solutions are ultimately artificial. As it turns out, nature is our most important ally in fighting the devastating effects of climate change.
According to Frontiers in Forests and Global Change research, old-growth large-diameter trees are the most important carbon sinks we have and are significantly more effective at removing and storing carbon from our atmosphere than any other technology we have available in the present day.
Oregon, USA, and the Blue Mountains Complex region, in particular, has been world-renowned for its natural beauty and resources for hundreds of years. The timber industry makes up much of the natural resource extraction sector. However, despite this fact, this area significantly lacks protections guaranteeing the safety of its natural beauty from those who would profit from taking what is there until there is nothing left.
One of the central issues for those living in Oregon is wildfires, which destroy land and towns and devastate those living there. Thus, “chainsaw medicine,” as it’s called in the region, is implemented to reduce the number of trees that can be burned to safeguard their communities from destruction and to turn a profit at the same time. However, recent developments in research in forestry have concluded that this might actually be accelerating the problem and making it worse, not better.
Large-diameter trees comprise only 7% of the total number of trees in the Blue Mountains Complex, yet they sequester 50% of the carbon emitted in the region into their bodies. These trees are incredibly carbon-dense and eat up the carbon in the atmosphere cleaning the air and providing important stability to the soil that prevents landslides.
On top of that, trees that are standing or dead actually prevent wildfires due to wind and humidity. The two main contributors to massive wildfires that spiral out of control are dry, windy conditions that lead sparks that would otherwise be contained and extinguished to engulf an entire forest. The forestry industry cuts down large swaths of the forest leading to large open areas with no shade to regulate the temperature and no obstructions to the wind that blows through freely.
And while global climate change does make historic wildfires much worse than they otherwise would be, indigenous peoples for hundreds of years used controlled burns in order to modify their landscape and regenerate the soil that benefits from ash in the dirt.
This new research has the capability to seriously challenge the conventional view on wildfires, as legislation is currently being introduced that can protect the pristine forests of Oregon from the industry that seeks to extract the trees and release all that carbon that otherwise would be contained in the bark.
As the world changes and new technologies are being developed and implemented in order to address our climate crisis, mother nature once again proves to us that often the right choice is to use what we already have. We like to believe that we are the most ingenious and intelligent life on the planet, but ultimately we come from the dirt and will return to it.
It only makes sense that we should begin respecting the solutions that come from the ground and dig our roots deeper to protect what is already here. New legislation that can bring about what is good for the environment has to be of top priority because, at the end of the day, we are not defending nature; we are nature defending itself.