Carbon in old growth forests

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Green Carbon Report put out by the Australian National University shows that industrially managed forests only return to 60% of their original (undisturbed) carbon capacity if left to grow on.

The carbon stock of forests subject to commercial logging, and of monoculture plantations in particular, will always be significantly less on average (~40 to 60% depending on the intensity of land use and forest type) than the carbon stock of natural, undisturbed forests. The rate of carbon fixation by young regenerating stands is high, but this does not compensate for the smaller carbon pools in the younger-aged stands of industrialized forests compared with those of natural forests.

In reply to many people’s letters on Brown Mountain (see page 11 of the subsciber Potoroo), a government underling responded to concerns on carbon, climate and logging. Janine Haddow claimed that "Over time..." the carbon is again captured. However, the latest ANU research shows they may never gain the full carbon-carrying potential, especially if thinned at 20 years and logged again after 50 years.

Forest & Wood Products Australia published an industry booklet in 2006, "Forests, Wood and Australia's Carbon Balance". It claims that, once tables and chairs are made from a few trees, 200 years later the carbon storage of a logged forest rises to "about 500 t C/ha" ... "more than double the carbon stored if the forest had been left unharvested for the same period of time." We assume this is thanks to those thousands of tonnes of surviving tables and chairs.

The ANU now shows that the stored carbon can be on average about 1,600 tonnes a hectare in ash forests - the richest and most dense stands of carbon on Earth.

Destroying old growth forests will never result in "an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas concentrations" and the government should be ashamed to have been caught peddling these lies.