Wildfires and CO2

I have read a number of articles, blog posts, op-eds, etc., declaring that timber harvesting is not the answer to the problem–timber harvesting is the problem. Well the old axiom about a picture holds,  a picture is worth a thousand words. With that in mind, check out Tom Knudson’s article, Fire, climate and thinning over at the Sacramento Bee. He has two photos that contrast what enlightened forest stewardship (Collins Pine Company) produces versus the near zero-cut regime the Clinton Administration imposed on the USDA Forest Service reaps. Two pictures are worth two thousand words.

I noted here, that northern California saw nearly a million acres burned last summer. According to NIFC (National Interagency fire Center), this year we could see a repeat of last season–and with the Jesusita Fire going on in Santa Barbara right now–it’s looking likely. Northern California fires could again add millions of tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Thinning and spacing using prudent forestry could lower the risk.

You see, without a change agent such as fire, shade tolerant trees begin crowding in under the forest canopy. This is not healthy. Fire normally clears these plants and keeps the ecotype in balance. Without disturbance, the forest gets unhealthier as conditions deteriorate. It’s not rocket science, forestry is much more complex.

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Timber’s Term of the Week: Forest

Forest

noun

Definition:

  1. Land spanning more than 0.5 hectares (just over an acre – ed.) with trees higher than 5 meters (just over 16 feet – ed.) and a canopy cover of more than 10 percent, or trees able to reach these thresholds in situ. It does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use. Forests are determined both by the presence of trees and the absence of other predominant land uses. The trees should be able to reach a minimum height of 5 meters in situ. Areas under reforestation which have yet to reach a crown density of 10 percent or tree height of 5 m are included, as are temporarily unstocked areas, resulting from human intervention or natural causes, that are expected to regenerate. (Source: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO))
  2. A group selection site on  Boggs Mountain State Forest
  3. Land at least 10 percent stocked by forest trees of any size, including land that formerly had such tree cover and that will be naturally or artificially regenerated. (Source Brad Smith, et. al.)

Synonyms:

  1. forestland, timberland, woodland

Discussion:

Other sources say a forest is a tract of land covered with trees; these are not technical definitions. Using such definitions gives the impression that the practice clearcutting results in deforestation. I’ve written before about deforestation (Deforestation and Reforestation, What is Deforestation?, and Toilet Paper, Hummers, and Global Warming, oh my!) Logging does not equal deforestation. The FAO defines deforestation as “the conversion of forest to another land use or the long-term reduction of tree canopy cover below the 10% threshold … Deforestation implies the long-term or permanent loss of forest cover. Such a loss can only be caused and maintained through a continued man-induced or natural perturbation.” (World Forest Resource Assessment in 2000, On Definitions Of Forest And Forest Change)

This is deforestation; the conversion to another land use.

This is deforestation; the conversion to another land use.

Etymology:

Forest comes from Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin forestis.

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Anthropogenic Deforestation

Anthropogenic (caused by humans) deforestation is the conversion of land use from forest to another designation. Logging, commercial or otherwise, doesn’t equal deforestation. It is what the land becomes that is the issue. Often, the conversion is to an agricultural use, e.g., the conversion of Amazonian rainforest to soy, vineyards, or rangeland.

Deforestation, what is it?

As I’ve noted in “What is Deforestation?“, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines deforestation as the, “conversion of forest to another land use or the long-term reduction of tree canopy cover below the 10% threshold … Deforestation implies the long-term or permanent loss of forest cover. Such a loss can only be caused and maintained through a continued man-induced or natural perturbation.” Source – On Definitions of Forest and Forest Change

This used to be oak woodland prior to its conversion to vineyard.

Hideous, isn’t it?

Our ecological footprint

Wherever we build settlements, grow food, hunt food, gather food, congregate or socialize; we change the area from what it was. Sometimes we change the place a little. Sometimes we change the place a great deal. With our current system, we change environments in places we don’t personally touch.

It’s a balancing act

Nature is dynamic. Nature requires change while also trying to maintain equilibrium. The question is always one of balance. I prefer forest but as a human being I also need to live, eat, procreate, and what I do will affect the earth. What we can do as humans is to gather data–facts–about the external costs of our choices. Gather facts from peer-reviewed journals, not blogs (especially those that do not list sources or their sources are biased), not environmental or industry (both skew facts to their own ends).

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