Carbon storage and sequestration

Published: 11/29/2019 7:43:04 AM

While I applaud Bill Stubblefield’s proposal to quantify the amount of carbon that was taken from the Wendell State Forest, it is important that he also take into account such factors as the eventual destination of the wood taken from the forest as well as the difference between carbon storage and carbon sequestration. Factors such as these are required to give a complete representation of a multi-dimensional process.

Carbon storage is only one part of the equation. Forests reach maximum storage capacity when they are old (200 years). Carbon sequestration (the rate or speed at which carbon is removed from the atmosphere) begins quite quickly as an area becomes forested or starts to become re-forested (reaching its maximum in about 20 years). The eventual destination for the forest products is also an important factor to consider.

Our barn in Ashfield has oak posts and beams that have been storing carbon for over 150 years. The trees from which those beams were made would most likely have died and rotted by now, returning most of that carbon to the atmosphere, had not the barn builders interrupted that process.

“Approximately one-third of the forest products harvested in the northeastern United States are made into products, such as furniture, flooring, and dimensional lumber (two-by-fours) with long life spans (Oswalt et al. 2018).” Whether a forest harvest is a net loss or benefit to the environment requires knowing as much as possible about all of the factors involved.

To better understand the dynamics of this process I recommend reading “Forest Carbon: An Essential Natural Solution for Climate Change” by Paul Catanzano and Anthony D’Amato of the universities of Massachusetts and Vermont, respectively. It is available for download here:

Philip K. Lussier


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