Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Modern forests suffer from century-old logging legacy

06.12.2005


By the early 20th century, loggers had harvested more than 90 percent of the forests covering the upper Great Lakes region. The legacy of that destruction continues to have a substantial impact on the environment, researchers say.



Nearly 70 years after this major disturbance, experimental forested plots in the current study have not returned to a point where they store as much carbon as the original stands. And researchers aren’t sure just how long it might take to return to that point.

Forests serve as storage areas for carbon in the form of carbon dioxide, a key atmospheric pollutant that contributes to global climate change.


Although many of these harvested areas have regrown, poor forest management practices at the turn of the 20th century have reduced by half the amount of carbon that modern forests can store, said Christopher Gough, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University.

"It’s remarkable that there is still this huge reduction in forest productivity," Gough said.

The more carbon that a forest can store, the more productive that forest is thought to be.

Scientists estimate that forests in North America today store about 10 to 12 percent of the total amount of carbon emitted by sources such as industry and automobiles in the United States and Canada .

"We’re living with the consequences of bad management practices from a hundred years ago," said Peter Curtis, a study co-author and a professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State . "This legacy is actually reducing the potential carbon storage capabilities of today’s forests."

Gough, Curtis and their colleagues presented the findings December 8 in San Francisco at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

The researchers measured the amount of carbon stored in several forested study plots that were harvested and burned at some point during the past 100 years. These areas were part of a biological research station in northern lower Michigan. Study plots were left to regrow after experimental clear-cut harvesting and burning anywhere from 6 to 68 years ago. This experimental disturbance imposed by researchers was in addition to the widespread logging and fire destruction of the early 20th century.

Several adjacent plots that had not been experimentally harvested and burned were used as a control.

The measurements showed that the maximum annual amount of carbon stored in the harvested and burned study plots was half of the amount stored in the control forest.

A century ago, loggers were likely to clear an entire area of trees but take only the choice trunks. That left behind an abundance of smaller trees, along with branches and leaves. The debris dried out and in effect became kindling; in many cases these clear-cut harvests were followed by uncontrolled fires caused by lightning or other means.

"This kind of slash followed by burning is similar to the current patterns of disturbance in many developing countries," Curtis said.

Although controlled burning is sometimes used as a forest management practice today, the uncontrolled fires of a hundred years ago were devastating.

"The slash – the branches and leaves and smaller trees that loggers leave behind – contains nutrients that are eventually recycled back into the forest system," Gough said. "But a lot of these nutrients went up in smoke with the fires, and the aftermath continues to have a negative impact on a forest’s ability to store carbon decades later."

Carbon remains in leaves, tree trunks, branches and roots, and in the debris that cover a forest floor. Carbon is also stored in soil -– microorganisms break down dead leaves and branches into minute particles that eventually become part of the earth. When a forest is clear-cut harvested and burned, much of the carbon it contains is released into the atmosphere.

"We now know that the amount of carbon that an acre of forest can store depends on how severely it was disturbed in the first place," said Gough.

Gough and Curtis worked with researchers from the University of Michigan’s Biological Station in Pellston, Mich.; Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt.; and Colorado State University, in Fort Collins.

Christopher Gough | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht When corals eat plastics
24.05.2018 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>