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Sunday January 16, 2022

Burnt forests

December 06, 2021

Trees are not re-growing in burned-out forests. This strange occurrence is becoming more frequent as global warming turns verdant flora into flammable tinder, causing more and bigger wild forests fires.

This article will examine the science behind failure of trees to regrow in burned-out forests. Additionally, and as a collateral issue, this puts one more distorted face on the consequential impact of the multi-billion dollar business called ‘woody biomass,’ which burns trees in place of coal to meet carbon neutral protocols.

As a consequence, between the twin impacts of burned-out forests failing to regrow and woody biomass chopping down mature trees that are strong carbon sinks replaced by frail seedlings, one has to wonder about nature’s ‘carbon sink’ capacity. Is it shrinking just when it’s needed like never before? Woody biomass is as bad, if not worse, as burning coal.

Regarding the effectiveness of CO2 uptake by commercial tree plantations used to produce wood chips for sale in the international woody biomass market: “Single-tree commercial crop plantations may meet the technical definition of a ‘forest’ – a certain concentration of trees in a given area- but factor in land clearing to plant the crop and frequent harvesting of the trees, and such plantations can actually release more carbon than they sequester,” Simon Lewis, forest ecologist/University College London.

There are several studies and outspoken scientists’ statements about woody biomass emitting more CO2 than burning coal. Yet, in order to meet carbon neutral standards, 60 percent of EU renewable energy is from wood chips. Somebody at the EU is cuckoo. A University of Colorado/Boulder study shows that when forests burn across significant portions of the Rocky Mountains, the forests do not regrow, even after 15 years post-fire, 80 percent of the surveyed plots contained no new trees.

The study looked at 22 separate burned-out areas from southern Wyoming thru central/western Colorado to northern New Mexico. The study included regions that had burned as long ago as 1988, including land ravaged by the 2002 Hayman Fire near Colorado Springs; the 1996 Buffalo Creek Fire southwest of Denver; the 2000 Eldorado Springs and Walker Ranch fires near Boulder; and the 2002 Missionary Ridge fire outside of Durango.

“This study and others clearly show that the resilience of our forests to fire has declined significantly under warmer, drier conditions,” coauthor Tom Veblen, professor of geography, CU Boulder. Global warming has contributed to a doubling of the number of acres burned across the country since the 1990s.

Increasing global temperature wipes out seedlings, especially in the US West where summer temperatures have increased so much that young trees do not have a chance to develop thick protective bark, and failure of regrowth in dry conditions finds seedlings shriveling before roots can grow deep enough to reach groundwater.

Excerpted: ‘Burned-out Forests Are Not Re-Growing’

Courtesy: Counterpunch.org

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