Tall and old or dense and young: Which kind of forest is better for the climate?

  • Scientists say reforestation and better forest management can provide 18 percent of climate change mitigation through 2030. But studies appear to be divided about whether it’s better to prioritize the conservation of old forests or the replanting of young ones.
  • A closer look, however, reconciles these two viewpoints. While young forests tend to absorb more carbon overall because trees can be crowded together when they’re small, a tree’s carbon absorption rate accelerates as it ages. This means that forests comprised of tall, old trees – like the temperate rainforests of North America’s Pacific coast – are some of the planet’s biggest carbon storehouses.
  • But when forests are logged, their immense stores of carbon are quickly released. A study found the logging of forests in the U.S. state of Oregon emitted 33 million tons of CO2 – almost as much as the world’s dirtiest coal plant.
  • Researchers are calling on industry to help buffer climate change by doubling tree harvest rotations to 80 years, and urge government agencies managing forests to impose their own harvest restrictions

Read the full article by Paul Koberstein & Jessica Applegate at Mongabay

Conservation Today talks wildfires with Dr. Dominick DellaSala

Dr. Dominick DellaSala talks about fire, including how wildfire is beneficial to our ecosystems. Does thinning help reduce fire? Does it help the forest? It depends. In any case, Dr. DellaSala explains why salvage logging a burned forests is so destructive. Dr. DellaSala also explains the relationship between climate change and forests, and the carbon capture and release of a forest. Finally, Dominick summarizes the green-new-deal from congress.

Listen to more episodes from Conservation Today

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New Alaska-based office!

Forest Legacies opens new office in Juneau to protect the Tongass magnificient rainforest

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The Geos Institute has been working on the Tongass rainforest for many years as part of its Forest Legacies initiative. Through our work to protect old growth and roadless areas on the Tongass we decided to open an office to increase our presence and reach with decision makers given the Tongass is a world class rainforest and recognized climate sanctuary.

Juneau Office
175 South Franklin Street, Suite 320
Juneau, AK, 99801

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Scientists sound the alarm on Earth Day

Originally published on April 21, 2019 in the Medford Mail Tribune

south kalmiopsis dellasalaBy Dominick A. DellaSala, William J. Ripple and Franz Baumann

Another Earth Day is here and it’s time to see how the planet’s life-support systems are doing and what it means for Oregonians.

Since clean, renewable energy solutions are becoming increasingly available, we remain hopeful. Given the risk, though, that they might not be deployed at scale, and because the planet is creeping dangerously close to a tipping point, it’s hard not to be alarmed.

For decades, scientists have been monitoring the planet’s systems like the warning lights on a car’s dashboard. We scan satellite images of humanity’s growing ecological footprint on the world’s forests, rivers, and oceans that is setting the stage for the biggest extinction event since the dinosaurs went extinct. We use thousands of weather stations to track rising global temperatures and super-computers that forecast catastrophic impacts awaiting future generations if we ignore these telltale signs.

Sounding the alarm on Earth Day

originally published April 21, 2019 at OregonLive

By Dominick A. DellaSala, William J. Ripple and Franz Baumann

Another Earth Day is here and it’s time to check on the planet, our climate, and what it means for Oregonians. While we remain hopeful that climate change is solvable if we act now, it’s hard not to be alarmed.

For decades, scientists have been monitoring the planet’s life-support systems like the warning lights on a car’s dashboard. We scan satellite images of humanity’s unprecedented ecological footprint on forests, rivers, and oceans. We use thousands of weather stations to track rising temperatures and super-computers to forecast impacts.

In 1992, we joined 1,700 scientists in issuing a warning that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided.” In 2017, more than 21,000 scientists from 184 countries issued a second warning that conditions had worsened and time was running out.

Dotty Owl: Born in Fire

Dotty Owl travels back in time and visits young forests emerging from the charcoal after intense wildfire. Forest fires burn at varying severities leaving a mosaic pattern on the landscape. While burned forests appear stark immediately after a fire, one of the best kept secrets of fire is how quickly the young forests emerge and thrive after fire. Join Dotty and see with your own eyes how many plants and animals thrive in burned forests.

Watch Episode 1 here.

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Real vs. Fake Forests

What makes a forest a forest? This simple question becomes much more complicated, depending on who you ask. Thankfully, Dr. Dominick DellaSala, President and Chief Scientist of the Geos Institute, helps us explore this question and settle the debate in a chapter on “Fake” vs “Real” forests that will be published in The World’s Biomes, scheduled to be released in 2020. Topics that will be explored include:

  • Does planting trees compensate for cutting down a forest?
  • Can we truly see a forest for more than just the trees?

Redwood National Park fog in the forestIf a tree grows in a forest, does that make it a forest?Industry classifies forests as “an area at minimum 120 ft wide, 1 acre minimum wide, with at least 10% forest cover.” Does that sound like a forest to you?

The US Forest Service is an arm of the USDA. The department of agriculture’s focus is growing crops. Stated plainly, that means the Forest Service sees trees as crops. This typically means tree plantations are planted in dense rows like corn to be thinned, sprayed with chemicals, and fertilized for the fastest growing cycle for logging and the highest “return on investment.”

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The Green New Deal: Finally climate policy informed by science

The proposal from Democrats is the most comprehensive response yet to the scientists’ warnings, to implement it would be realism, not radicalism

By William J. Ripple, Dominick A. DellaSala and Franz Baumann

green new deal 350dotorgOur nation has a long history of scientific innovation that has produced the computers that run our businesses, new discoveries in medicines that can extend our lives, and the rockets that take us to distant worlds in search of other life. Photo: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and senator Ed Markey present their Green New Deal resolution to reporters (Credit: 350.org)

In short, science is our best hope to enable informed choices about our future. Big ideas like president Roosevelt’s New Deal also gave our nation hope for reversing the downward economic spiral of the 1930s with government programmes that still benefit us today. However, when it comes to a safe climate, science and policy have operated in a vacuum.

The Green New Deal in Congress provides an opportunity for bringing both science and policy together in shaping a sustainable future for our nation that avoids a pending crisis to the planet’s life support systems if we do not act boldly and promptly.

Don’t Be Fooled by “Fake Forests”

There is no substitute for a real old-growth forestby Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph. D, Chief Scientist, Geos Institute

Originally posted on the Oregon Wild website

If a tree grows in a forest, does that make it a forest? Does planting trees compensate for cutting down a forest? How do we know we are in a forest or an unreasonable facsimile (“fake”) there of?

A new publication “The World’s Biomes” is set for release in libraries globally in 2020. It will feature my chapter on fake vs. real forests. Contact me at dominick@geosinstitute.org for an advanced copy of this chapter.

In the meantime, here’s a sneak preview of what’s inside a real vs. fake forest.

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