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Tree planting seems like a straightforward, positive climate solution: plant trees to soak up carbon, green urban spaces, reduce heat. However, in Sweden, nearly a fifth of the country’s ancient growth forests have been cut down since 2000 as part of the country’s timber products sector. While most of these trees have been replanted, they’re replaced with monoculture timber plantations. But these trees aren’t interchangeable, the Guardian reports. As a group of Swedish environmental organizations, indigenous communities, and youth activists wrote to the European Commission, ‘Natural forests are not renewable. Trees can be planted, but not forests. . .If you plant pine trees, you get a timber field, not a forest. Real forests are complex ecosystems, a bedrock of a multitude of life and home for many species”
Why This Matters: The Swedish forestry model causes many of the same harms as deforestation even with no tree replacement. It disrupts ecosystems: The old-growth forests host lichens, which in turn are an important food for reindeer. More than 70% of the country’s lichen-filled forests have been destroyed since 1960, impacting the indigenous Sámi people whose culture is linked to the reindeer. It also fragments the forests that do remain, destroying much of their ecosystem services — not really a good replacement at all.
Using the Forest for Fuel
Sweden’s low levels of protected forestland coupled with the intensity of logging threaten to destroy the country’s ancient forests, but protecting the old-growth forests that remain would be positive for the species — including humans — that depend on the forest as well as our carbon budget.
As the letter notes, the time to rein in emissions is running out, and swapping one carbon-intense source of fuel for another doesn’t solve the crisis. “Forest protection is a cost-effective and immediate carbon capture and sequestration tool,” they write, but you need the ancient forests still standing to protect in the first place. The timber plantation trees planted today will take 60-100 years to reach the point where they sequester the same amount of carbon dioxide emitted from cutting down the old-growth trees there, to begin with.
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer The giant sequoia trees in California’s Sequoia National Park are over 1,000 years old and could live another 2,000 years, but climate change-fueled fires are killing them. The trees can usually withstand the flames, but the intensity of recent fires has been overpowering. Last year’s Castle Fire killed up […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor As wildfires and deforestation grip the Amazon rainforest, Indigenous communities are urging world governments to pledge to protect 80% of the forest by 2025. The groups launched their campaign at a biodiversity conference in France, where experts from around the world are laying the groundwork for the UN’s delayed […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer A new assessment found that at least 30% of the world’s 60,000 tree species are nearing extinction in the wild. The number of tree species threatened— 17,500— is twice that of threatened mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles combined. Why this Matters: Trees are crucial to maintaining the earth’s ecosystems. Trees not […]
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