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[Duurzaamlijst] COP-6 and Old Forests
>From a dutch list about sustainable develpment I forward
an article about using forests as carbon sinks, which can be
considered relevant for COP-6 as discussedc on this list.
It states essentially, that old forests are better sinks then
new forests, and that they should be protected by COP-6
The point is, that current protection is not sufficient to secure
old forests against clearing, and using carbon credits for
It is based on an article published in New York Times of
sept 22, 2000 and research can be found in Science Magazin
of september 22, 2000.
My summary of this report is, that living biomass is
perfectly able to use sunpower (without any use of fossil fuels!)
to get CO2 out of the air. Part of it will be stored in its rootsystems
deep into the soil.
So clearing a forest will make these rootsystems susceptible for
all kinds of rotting processes. This will be a contribution to global
This means, that COP-6 should contain a paragraph, that any
contribution to CO2 concentration into atmosphere should be
taxed/fined in such a way as to eliminate the incentive to clear
For stimulating discussion I have formulated some prososal in
a sequel to this forwarded message under the subject line
"COP-6 and a climate saving reafforestation strategy."
Planting New Forests Can't Match Saving Old Ones in Cutting
Greenhouse Gases, Study Finds
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
A new study has cast doubts on an important element of a proposed
treaty tofight global warming: the planting of new forests in an effort
to sop up carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas.
The research concludes that old, wild forests are far better than
plantations of young trees at ridding the air of carbon dioxide,
which is released when coal, oil and other fossil fuels are burned.
The United States and other countries with large land masses want
to use forest plantations to meet the goals of the proposed treaty.
The study's authors say that any treaty also needs to protect old
forests and that, so far there is no sign that such protections are
Without such protections, the scientists conclude, some countries
could be tempted to cut down old forests now and then plant new
trees on the deforested land later, getting credit for reducing
carbon dioxide when they have actually made matters worse.
The analysis, published in the journal Science today
(September 22, 2000 Anton) was done by Dr. Ernst-Detlef Schulze,
the director of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in
Jena, Germany, and two other scientists at the institute.
Several climate and forestry experts familiar with the work said
the study provided an important new argument for protecting
old-growth woods. And they say the study provides a reminder
that the main goal should be to reduce carbon dioxide emissions
at the source, smokestacks and tailpipes.
In old forests, huge amounts of carbon taken from the air are locked
away not only in the tree trunks and branches, but also deep in the soil,
where the carbon can stay for many centuries, said Kevin R. Gurney,
a research scientist at Colorado State University. When such a
forest is cut, he said, almost all of that stored carbon is eventually
returned to the air in the form of carbon dioxide.
"It took a huge amount of time to get that carbon sequestered in
those soils," he said, "so if you release it, even if you plant again,
it'll take equally long to get it back."
Negotiators are to meet in November to settle on methods for
staving off a predicted warming that could disrupt ecosystems,
harm agriculture and cause sea levels to rise, eroding coasts.
The negotiations are taking place under the Kyoto Protocol, an
agreement that was signed by more than 100 countries in 1997
but has not yet been ratified. It sets goals for cutting greenhouse
gas emissions starting in 2008 but includes few details on how
to achieve them.
The United States, Canada, Russia and other countries have
been pressing to achieve as much as half their greenhouse gas
reductions not at the source but by using "sinks" like forests to
remove carbon dioxide.
In the last round of talks, which ended last week in Lyon, France,
some countries were still seeking treaty language that could
allow some new planting to occur on land that was recently
cleared of old forest and get credit for greenhouse-gas reductions,
said Mr. Gurney, who attended the talks as an observer.
David B. Sandalow, an assistant secretary of state who was
the chief American delegate in Lyon, said that the treaty drafts
so far could theoretically allow such a practice but that the
United States was seeking to prevent this.
"We're committed to protecting old growth and finding ways
to address this issue," Mr. Sandalow said.
The German study, together with other similar research, has
produced a picture of mature forests that differs sharply from
long-held notions in forestry, Dr. Schulze said. He said aging
forests were long perceived to be in a state of decay that
releases as much carbon dioxide as it captures.
But it turns out that the soils in undisturbed tropical rain forests,
Siberian woods and some German national parks contain
enormous amounts of carbon derived from fallen leaves,
twigs and buried roots that can bind to soil particles and
remain for 1,000 years or more. When such forests are
cut, the trees' roots decay and soil is disrupted, releasing
the carbon dioxide.
Centuries would have to pass until newly planted trees
built up such a reservoir underground.
New forests are fine as long as they are planted on land
that was previously vacant, Dr. Schulze said, adding,
"but there has to be a focus on preserving the old growth."
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