Home Carbon and Climate Change Canada’s forests as a carbon sink

Canada’s forests as a carbon sink

by Ellen Cools

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.

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