- They say forests are Earth’s lungs – ok, but they’re after all biomass, and we could cut them for a profit and still stay clean, because this practice should be carbon neutral… not. At least that’s what common sense and two U.S. universities (Duke and Oregon State) are telling me.
Because wood stores only about half the amount of carbon-created energy as an equivalent amount of fossil fuels, burning wood instead of short-living biofuel crops is just unsustainable and the CO2 footprint is positive.
“In most cases, it would take more than 100 years for the amount of energy substituted to equal the amount of carbon storage achieved if we just let the forests grow and not harvest them at all,” said Stephen R. Mitchell from Duke.
The scientists at Oregon State developed the simulation of an ecosystem which their Duke colleagues used to calculate the time nature would need to offset the carbon emissions generated by burning wood (carbon debt). The simulation looked at different scenarios, practices, characteristics and land-use histories.
“Few of our combinations achieved carbon sequestration parity in less than 100 years, even when we set the bioenergy conversion factor at near-maximal levels,” said Mark E. Harmon, who led the study along with Kari E. O’Connell of Oregon State University.
To make a long story short, the conclusion is that people better let forests where they are than cutting them under the pretext that they’re biomass resource. Even dead trees store a lot of carbon inside them, which is better left alone to integrate into nature’s normal pathways established in billions of years.