It is a fundamental requirement of sustainable forestry that the carbon stock in forests remains stable or increases over time.
Forest professionals manage whole forests by dividing them into hundreds of individual forest stands or sections. As one plot is being harvested, another is being planted, another is being thinned, while in yet another, crews are removing competing brush to allow the trees to grow faster. While this is happening, the stands are being managed for other important values such as biodiversity, recreation and cultural heritage.
Since only a small fraction of the total forest is harvested each year, growth in the hundreds of adjacent stands adds up to at least the same, but most often more than the amount harvested. Newly planted stands sequester only small amounts of carbon, but as they increase in age, will store more and more carbon over time until they reach maturity. At maturity, both growth and carbon sequestration slow, until finally the trees are harvested, and the cycle begins again. This concept is important in understanding forest carbon accounting. (Figure 2)
Despite the growing demand for clean energy, only a small amount of biomass makes its way into wood pellets. Canadian wood pellets are produced entirely from the residuals of sustainably managed forests. Taken as a whole, these residuals account for about 0.04% of the annual harvest in Canada.