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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 Every day, the world loses an area of tree cover about the size of New York City from deforestation. World Wildlife Fund’s new Forests Forward campaign partners with companies to help improve forest management and trade. Companies like Kimberly-Clark and Lowe’s have already signed on, committing to the program’s […]
As conservationist Paul van Nimwegan wrote for Conservation International, Sumatra’s biodiversity is at a critical juncture — widespread forest clearing, wildlife poaching and land-use intensification have put much of the island’s astonishing flora and fauna under considerable threat. About 12 million hectares of Sumatra’s vast forest ecosystem have been cleared in the past 22 years, […]
In Canada’s British Columbia, a new project plans to replant resilient forests with the combination of Indigenous knowledge and new technology. According to reporting by Grist in partnership with The Tyee, Seed the North will “collect seeds, combine them in biodiverse seedpods, and drop them using drone technology over thousands of acres.”
Why This Matters: Over the past decades, British Columbia’s forests have been through climate change-fueled droughts, wildfires, and pest infestations.
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