By Sierra Club BC
Our planet is in the midst of a climate crisis, and the latest science calls for reducing global emissions by half within the next decade to avoid catastrophic climate change. Most of the world’s intact forests, particularly primary (unlogged) forests, help slow climate change by taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in living and dead trees and soil. However, according to provincial data, as a result of destructive logging and climate impacts like beetle outbreaks, forests in B.C. have released more carbon than they absorb for over a decade.
Forest clearcutting is a major contributor to carbon emissions and loss of carbon capture in the Pacific Northwest of North America. Clearcutting causes a rapid and large loss of carbon from decomposing organic matter and soils, particularly when old-growth forests are logged. Additionally, it takes 13 years or more before the replanted young forest begins to absorb more carbon than is still being released from the area cut. For at least 13 years, these areas are “sequestration dead zones”: clearcut lands that emit more carbon than they absorb.
For this report, Sierra Club BC reviewed B.C. government data to identify the total area of old-growth and second-growth forest logged across the province over 13 years (2005-2017), and to estimate the carbon emissions and the loss of carbon capture caused by this logging.
The analysis shows a total area of about 3.6 million hectares of “sequestration dead zones,” an area larger than the size of Vancouver Island. This includes over 1.9 million hectares of old-growth forest and close to 1.7 million hectares of second-growth that were cut. The “sequestration dead zones” make up 9.1% of the total area of relatively productive provincial forests.