Managing Tasmania's private forests to the world's highest standards
19 Jun 2008
Wood is stored greenhouse gas - held together with stored sunlight. If we are serious about trying to address greenhouse and the resulting climate change we should be growing and using more forests, for sustainable energy-efficient products that store carbon and for sustainable biomass-based energy systems. Use more wood not less.
The biomass of forests and all plant matter is composed of around 50% carbon - carbon taken from the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide which is stripped of oxygen and bonded together with energy from sunlight via the magic of photosynthesis. During that process oxygen is released so whilst a plant or forest is growing, increasing in biomass, there is a net removal of carbon from the atmosphere and a net release of oxygen.
Once a forest reaches maturity the net increase in biomass approaches zero as the rate of biomass production is balanced by the forces of decay. At this point the forest has neither a net release of oxygen nor a net absorption of carbon dioxide. The forest then stands as a store of atmospheric carbon and solar energy.
Harvesting a forest results in the release of some carbon dioxide back into the air from which it came however a considerable portion remains stored in resulting forest products such as furniture, timber for housing and a myriad of paper products.
Wood and plant-fibre based materials are the only materials that we have at our disposal which are truly renewable. The international Panel for Climate Change said “stopping all forest harvest would increase forest carbon stocks, but would reduce the amount of timber and fibre available to meet societal needs. Other energy-intensive materials, such as concrete, aluminium, steel, and plastics, would be required to replace wood products, resulting in higher Greenhouse Gas emissions” (Gustavsson et al., 2006). (p.549)
If we are serious about reducing our emissions we should be increasing our use of forest based products and biomass energy to displace non-renewable products and energy sources. Wood after all is stored solar energy.
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