Canada: Carbon absorbing lungs are no longer absorbing

The country’s 1.2 million square miles of trees have been dubbed the
“lungs of the planet” by ecologists because they account for more than
7 percent of Earth’s total forest lands. They could always be depended
upon to suck in vast quantities of carbon dioxide, naturally cleansing
the world of much of the harmful heat-trapping gas. But not anymore!
In an alarming yet little-noticed series of recent studies, scientists
have concluded that Canada’s precious forests, stressed from damage
caused by global warming, insect infestations and persistent fires,
have crossed an ominous line and are now pumping out more
climate-changing carbon dioxide than they are sequestering. Worse yet,
the experts predict that Canada’s forests will remain net carbon
sources, as opposed to carbon storage “sinks,” until at least 2022,
and possibly much longer.

“We are seeing a significant distortion of
the natural trend,” said Werner Kurz, senior research scientist at the
Canadian Forest Service and the leading expert on carbon cycles in the
nation’s forests. “Since 1999, and especially in the last five years,
the forests have shifted from being a carbon sink to a carbon source.”
Translation: Earth’s lungs have come down with emphysema. Canada’s
forests are no longer our friends. So serious is the problem that
Canada’s federal government effectively wrote off the nation’s forests
in 2007 as officials submitted their plans to abide by the
international Kyoto Protocol, which obligates participating
governments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Under the Kyoto
agreement, governments are permitted to count forest lands as credits,
or offsets, when calculating their national carbon emissions. But
Canadian officials, aware of the scientific studies showing that their
forests actually are emitting excess carbon, quietly omitted the
forest lands from their Kyoto compliance calculations.
Environmentalists contend that the extreme stresses on Canada’s
forests, particularly the old-growth northern forest, mean that
logging ought to be sharply curtailed to preserve the remaining
trees—and the carbon stored within them—for as long as possible.,0,1942058.story

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Comments (1)

Eliza OlsonJanuary 7th, 2009 at 6:28 am

So much for the forests! But this doesn’t say much more for Canada’s peatlands, especially the northern ones that are defrosting. This is why we need to protect the disappearing southern ones.

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