Carbon Emissions From Deforestation Influenced By Time, Method Of Tree Usage, And Location
May 15, 2012

Carbon Emissions From Deforestation Influenced By Time, Method Of Tree Usage, And Location

The University of California, Davis has conducted an innovative study on the effects of human tree usage on climate change. The findings offer a greater understanding of the intricate effects of deforestation on the global climate from greenhouse gas emissions, specifically focusing on carbon emissions.

This study, published by the advance online edition of the journal Nature Climate Change on May 13, 2012, shows that the amount of greenhouse gas that enters the atmosphere after a forest is cleared depends on where the trees were located and the ways the trees are used. Carbon can last for decades in a solid wood product such as lumber meant for housing. Adversely, wood that is broken down and used for paper or bioenergy can disperse virtually all of its carbon instantly.

There are possible ramifications for the use of corn-based biofuels due to greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States, if corn-based ethanol is exploited, less lucrative crops such as soybeans will move to other countries. In order for those crops to be planted, more forests may have to be cleared, therefore increasing carbon emissions.

"We found that 30 years after a forest clearing, between 0 percent and 62 percent of carbon from that forest might remain in storage." Lead author J. Mason Earles, a doctoral student with the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies stated. He also said, "Previous models generally assumed that it was all released immediately."

Other authors of the study "Timing of carbon emissions from global forest clearance," include Kenneth E. Skog of the USDA Forest Service and Sonia Yeh, a research scientist with the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies.

Earles states that the study gives new information that could aid in updating the climate models of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading international group for the evaluation of climate change.

Researchers evaluated the usage of harvested wood from one hundred and sixty-nine countries, finding that temperate forests cleared in Canada, the United States, and parts of Europe provide mainly solid wood products, whereas tropical forests from the Southern Hemisphere provide wood for paper goods and bioenergy.

The study declares, "Carbon stored in forests outside Europe, the USA and Canada, for example, in tropical climates such as Brazil and Indonesia, will be almost entirely lost shortly after clearance."

"This is just one of the pieces that fit into this land-use issue," Earles states. One of the most important factors that influence climate change is land usage. "We hope it will give climate models some concrete data on emissions factors they can use."