A Yale University-led study has found that using more wood and less steel and concrete in building and bridge construction would substantially reduce global carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption.
Despite an established forest conservation theory holding that tree harvesting should be strictly minimized to prevent the loss of biodiversity and to maintain carbon storage capacity, the new study shows that sustainable management of wood resources can achieve both goals while also reducing fossil fuel burning. The results were published March 28 in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry.
In Vancouver, architect Michael Green has proposed a 30-story wooden skyscraper, called "Tall Wood." (Image via MG Architecture)
In the comprehensive study, scientists from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and the University of Washington’s College of the Environment evaluated a range of scenarios, including leaving forests untouched, burning wood for energy, and using various solid wood products for construction.
The researchers calculated that the amount of wood harvested globally each year (3.4 billion cubic meters) is equivalent to only about 20 percent of annual wood growth (17 billion cubic meters), and much of that harvest is burned inefficiently for cooking. They found that increasing the wood harvest to the equivalent of 34% or more of annual wood growth would have profound and positive effects:
• Between 14% and 31% of global CO2 emissions could be avoided by preventing emissions related to steel and concrete; by storing CO2 in the cellulose and lignin of wood products; and other factors.
• About 12% to 19% of annual global fossil fuel consumption would be saved including savings achieved because scrap wood and unsellable materials could be burned for energy, replacing fossil fuel consumption.
Wood-based construction consumes much less energy than concrete or steel construction. Through efficient harvesting and product use, more CO2 is saved through the avoided emissions, materials, and wood energy than is lost from the harvested forest.
“This study shows still another reason to appreciate forests — and another reason to not let them be permanently cleared for agriculture,” said Chadwick Oliver, the Pinchot Professor of Forestry and Environmental Studies, director of the Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry at F&ES and lead author of the new study. “Forest harvest creates a temporary opening that is needed by forest species such as butterflies and some birds and deer before it regrows to large trees. But conversion to agriculture is a permanent loss of all forest biodiversity.”
The manufacture of steel, concrete, and brick accounts for about 16 percent of global fossil fuel consumption. When the transport and assembly of steel, concrete, and brick products is considered, its share of fossil fuel burning is closer to 20% to 30%, Oliver said.
Reductions in fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions from construction will become increasingly critical as demand for new buildings, bridges and other infrastructure is expected to surge worldwide in the coming decades with economic development in Asia, Africa, and South America, according to a previous F&ES study. And innovative construction techniques are now making wood even more effective in bridges and mid-rise apartment buildings.
According to Oliver, carefully managed harvesting also reduces the likelihood of catastrophic wildfires. And maintaining a mix of forest habitats and densities in non-reserved forests — in addition to keeping some global forests in reserves — would help preserve biodiversity in ecosystems worldwide, Oliver said. About 12.5% of the world’s forests are currently located in reserves.
“Forests historically have had a diversity of habitats that different species need,” Oliver said. “This diversity can be maintained by harvesting some of the forest growth. And the harvested wood will save fossil fuel and CO2 and provide jobs — giving local people more reason to keep the forests.”
The article, “Carbon, Fossil Fuel, and Biodiversity Mitigation with Woods and Forests,” was co-authored by Nedal T. Nassar of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Bruce R. Lippke and James B. McCarter of the University of Washington.
Kevin Dennehy | EurekAlert!
Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences