Thursday, November 13, 2008

Old, wet trees as carbon sinks

Since we're studying forestry econ at the moment, and have just recently studied tradable permit systems, here is an interesting article on the carbon storage capacity of riparian forests.

Scientists from the University of Missouri have found that submerged trees store carbon for thousands of years, while dead and decaying trees only store carbon for around 20 years before releasing it back into the atmosphere.

Read through to the bottom to see the connection to emissions trading markets.


Antonio Joyette said...

Quite an interesting article with interesting facts, but is it worth knowing? This could be a good thing but I am uncertain. I remain sceptical!

There are some thoughts. Would this help the timber industry? Would trees be fell when they begin to decay and the rate of release of carbon increases? I doubt.. they would be of little use for obvious reasons.

Also, For solid waste and water resource managers - do we intend to dispose fallen and useless trees in our freshwater sources? So where will they hide the trees? Recently on National Geographic I saw salvaging of old underwater logs -for processing. I am skeptical. Do they wish to cut and preserve trees for later use and so hatch this plot? I hope not.

We cannot fully stop the release of carbons since we build houses with the timber and in so doing propagate the release of carbons.

Shouldn't we be looking at man made sources of introducing and releasing more carbons into the atmosphere? Rather that wasting time doing research on the natural processes that releases carbons (which have been going on long before man decided to go and use coal and oil), we should be trying to curtail mans action with respect to introcducing more carbon pollution into the atmosphere. I believe we are being distracted by such research.

I fear this is just going to introduce creative ways ways of increasing carbon limits or expansion in quotas by hiding trees in water?...Does this have to do with efficiency or profits? hmmmm I wonder! I am skeptical!

Jonathan Moses said...

I have to agree with some of Antonio's comments. Whether this discovery works or not is really not my concern but rather the repercussions of those who would wish to exploit it as a viable reason to continue to emit carbons into the atmosphere.

Here is one phrase that stood out for me: "While a tree is alive, it has a high ability to store carbon, thus keeping it out of the atmosphere. However, as it begins to decay, a tree’s carbon is released back into the atmosphere."

The article treats this process as if it's a problem that needs to be fixed but this is a natural process! The real problem is that when old trees are decaying there are less and less young trees to take in the carbon slowly being released by the older trees. It's a cycle that human beings have disrupted.

Agreeing with Antonio, we should be looking at curbing man's impact with respect to carbon emissions instead of rediscovering what nature has been doing long before us.

Brandon Hamm said...

I think this is a cool topic to think about....studies are being done in regards to carbon sequestration and storage in the deep ocean and into geologic systems. As far as I know, trees are much more efficient than any manmade carbon scrubbers that I have heard of. Instead of capturing and CO2 and storing it in inefficient tanks and such, the trees can not leak, and do not require energy to capture the carbon.
I'm not saying that this is a great idea by any means, its just that the more ideas that are thrown on the table, the more ideas that may spawn from maybe even the most absurd storage tecniques. Who would have ever thought that the corn the pilgrims ate at the first thanksgiving would later be used as fuel for our vehicles???
Nature has given us the idea for many common useful and inovative things so far, why stop looking now?

Antonio Joyette said...

I agree with you Brandon, but guess what? For every great idea we have adopted from nature, we have as many abuse of the same idea. Man just seem to have the penchant to make this contradicting choices. Give him a knife as a tool... he ends up using it as a weapon. Teach him to fish and he catches all! By virtue of that we will be back in the medieval times before you know it (other things being equal), and it will be all because we are intelligent.

Let's hope they don't try perfecting that carbon storage idea you talked about. It would not be a surprise now would it.

Anyway, I am still suspicious.

Joe Romeo said...

I think this is a very interesting article and Im curious to see where it will go from here. Now that the research has been done and proven Im sure it can provide a lot of help to reduce global warming. Who knows maybe one day there will be riparian forest farmers who could sell carbon credits to companies who emit too much. The possibilites are endless but I think its a cool idea to help combat carbon emissions.