Inland rainforest logging is exacerbating global climate change – study – Prince George Daily News

Dominick DellaSala collecting data in the rainforest. Photo by Conservation North

An international team of scientists has published a new peer-reviewed journal study on the importance of protecting primary forests in British Columbia’s Interior Wetbelt (IWB) bioregion for climate. Scientists from the University of Northern British Columbia, Griffith University in Australia, the Conservation Biology Institute in Oregon, Wild Heritage in Oregon and Conservation North participated in the study, which which highlights the seriousness of British Columbia’s emissions related to the logging of old-growth forests.

The IWB is a vast, largely forested area of ​​16.5 million hectares along the western flanks of the Canadian Rockies and northern Columbia Mountains. The IWB contains ancient spruce forests (called in other parts of the world as Boreal forest) and the inland temperate rainforest. Logging in this ecosystem accelerated from the 1970s to the 2000s.

According to lead researcher Dr. Dominick DellaSala: “The region contains underestimated carbon stocks that can help Canada meet its climate and conservation goals. In their natural state, these forests are an irreplaceable natural climate solution, but we are turning them into timber and threatening to turn them into pellets.

The Government of Canada has committed to protecting 30% of its lands and waters by 2030 to help alleviate the climate crisis.

The study used data collected in the field, as well as government datasets to estimate the amount of carbon held in unlogged old-growth spruce, red cedar and hemlock forests, the amount emitted into the atmosphere by clearcutting.

Dr Art Fredeen, co-author of the study at UNBC, added: “The inner humid belt contains some of the most carbon-dense forests on the planet. If we added up all the carbon from the timber historically logged in the TBI, it would exceed BC’s total greenhouse gas emissions for 2019 nine times. Instead of increasing BC’s carbon debt by mining more ancient carbon-rich landscapes, we should conserve them.

Ecologist and co-author Michelle Connolly explains that: “There must be major forest reforms that protect old-growth, carbon-dense forests, give degraded forests time to recoup carbon debt from logging, and improve monitoring of carbon stocks and stock changes. . This is what the promised “paradigm shift” on the ground should look like.

Dr. DellaSala adds: “For the first time ever, we have a comprehensive assessment of the importance of British Columbia’s interior rainforests to global climate and losses due to logging. In the case of climate change, the forest is worth much more standing than cut for wood products.

The study reported that nearly a quarter of the entire IWB has been logged, the majority in interior rainforest since the 1970s, resulting in at least an 18% decline in living carbon. above ground. However, this is likely an underestimate because, according to the study, a) government data appears to underestimate the amount of aboveground carbon storage in the most carbon-rich stands, and b) Logging has been concentrated in low to medium altitudes (below 2000m) where carbon density is greatest. That is, the province underreports carbon emissions from logging by up to 75%

Betty K. Park