Community Articles
Go to Site Index See "Community Articles" main page
General News · 22nd June 2008
norberto rodriguez dela vega
One very important aspect of the forest lands owned by IT in Cortes Island is the connection between forests and climate change. Let me try to explain.

Forests are a carbon sink, they take in carbon dioxide and convert it to wood, leaves and roots. On the other hand, forests are also a carbon source, when they release stored carbon into the atmosphere when they are logged, decompose or burn. Because of this ability to both absorb and release huge amounts of carbon dioxide forests play a major role in the “global carbon cycle.”

Natural Resources Canada explains:
“Globally, there is more carbon stored in forest biomass (trees and other living plants), dead organic matter and soil than is contained in the atmosphere. This is why forests are a key part of the global carbon cycle.
"Deforestation, the permanent clearing of forest for other uses like agriculture and urban development, is a serious global issue. World-wide, deforestation creates about 20 percent of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions—more than is produced by the global transportation sector.”

The Canadian Forest industry is now recognizing the impacts of climate change on Canada’s forests. The epidemic of the mountain pine beetle is a proof of this. The forest has a key role to play in mitigating climate change and Governments are starting to support climate-friendly forest management practices.

A Natural Resources Canada study on the socio-economic impacts of climate change says: these impacts “will affect forest companies, landowners, consumer, governments and the tourism industry.” One example of these impacts is the “introduction of carbon credit permit mitigation policies that create a carbon sequestration market.”

The Canadian forests have value beyond just the timber they can provide. David Cohen of the University of BC recently said: “The crisis is with the wood, not with the forest. There are values in the forest that there are opportunities to commercialize […] We don’t know what the most valuable resource in our forest is going to be in 20 years, it could be water, it could be carbon sequestration, it could be biodiversity credits, but we have to manage so that we can maximize the value of the forest, not of the wood resource, and that requires a bit of a different mindset.”

Here in Cortes Island, there may be forest lands that are not particularly valuable for harvesting fibre but could nevertheless have a high economic value as stores of carbon.

In a forest ecosystem there are many components that store carbon, including tree trunks, branches, leaves, coarse and fine roots, soils, litter (forest floor detritus), as well as understory (low-growing trees and plants below the forest canopy). The estimates for overall carbon sequestration varies, depending on factors like tree diversity, age, soil conditions and more. Each acre of forest may store from 0.9 to 4.6 tonnes of carbon per year. The older a forest is, the more carbon it stores.

As I said at the beginning, when a forest is logged, or when it burns, the majority or the sequestered carbon is released back to the atmosphere. Not only that, recent studies have found that logged areas continue to emit carbon long after the trees have been logged, as often for 10 years or more. Other studies say that it takes more than 100 years for a logged forest to return to the pre-logged carbon store values.

I was able do a rough estimate of the carbon sequestered in the IT lands, by using a Private Woodland Planner calculator I found. This tool was developed by Enfor Consultants, a firm form Vancouver, to assist small landowners analyze timber and non-timber forest values and options on their forest lands. The tool may help to estimate current and future timber volume growth and yield; costs and returns for harvesting timber and non-timber products; and also estimates the amount of C02 that the forest is capturing each year and the total amount that has been sequestered to date.

Rough estimates

The following are the figures I got in the first two runs:

Woodland Planner, Run # 1
Baseline data:
Total area 809 ha.
Tree mix: 50 % douglas fir; 50% red cedar
Average age 90 years
C02 Sequestration estimates:
507,476 tonnes to date
8,472 tonnes per year

Woodland Planner, Run # 2
Baseline data:
Total area 729 ha. ( Carrington to Sq. area sections)
Tree mix: 35 % douglas fir; 35% red cedar; 5% spruce; 25% hemlock
Average age 70 years
C02 Sequestration estimates:
320,031 tonnes to date
8,675 tonnes per year

As we can see, the amount of carbon that these forests are sequestering is significant. The forests are the lungs of our island, and they are playing a key role to compensate for the C02 emissions from our cars, trucks, houses, ferry and more.

I am certain that Island Timberlands have an open mind and will be able to realize the value of keeping their lands as standing forests. By doing this they will help with balancing the C02 emissions in our island and with reducing climate change impacts. They will demonstrate their appreciation and reverence for Nature, and at the same time, the carbon sequestration value of their forests will keep growing, year after year.

Overall, this is a very sensible and wise alternative to logging, I think.

thank you

Thanks, Norberto
Comment by Scott Lawrance on 29th June 2008
Good work - I wonder if there is an easy way of calculating the amount of carbon that woukld be released into the atmosphere as a result of logging - I am assuming it would be calculated as at least as much as is currently in the forest, but also the at least the amounts added through the burning of fossil fuels in harvesting, transporting, and milling. These would obviously vary as well, depending on the destination of the trees (e.g., as raw logs headed off shore) and of the final product (more transportation costs.) All of this and more becomes part of the picture when we shift the perspective. Cheers, Scott