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  • Library: Loss of primary forest

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    The Science Advisory Group, a committee of independent BC forest and climate scientists, produced a report in April 2021 that provided concrete suggestions on how the BC government should reform forest management. They recommended the government:
    1. Update land use planning with an increased emphasis on protection of primary and old-growth forests
    2. Adjust current timber harvesting level to a level supported by more realistic determinations of allowable annual cuts to promote sustainable forestry practices.
    3. Reform forest tenure, with greater community and indigenous control of forest management to increase social, environmental and economic resilience.
    Informing Land-use Planning with Science - Towards Sustainability (2021).pdf

    Jim Pojar
    By Jim Pojar
    Fairy Creek is a small, forested, mostly intact watershed tributary to the San Juan River, on southwestern Vancouver Island. The Fairy Creek valley is slated to be logged starting this year. In preparation for this, licensee The Teal-Jones Group was planning to build roads into the watershed this spring. However, blockades have for seven months prevented the logging company from building roads and logging in Fairy Creek. Teal-Jones is now seeking a court injunction to remove the blockades.
    Context: Climate and Biodiversity Crises
    We are living in the grip of two global environmental crises: the climate emergency and the loss of biological diversity. Humanity has only two to three decades to avoid the 1.5 °C threshold and forestall runaway climate warming. “Limiting global warming to 1.5 °C as stipulated in the Paris Climate Agreement scientifically implies a complete net decarbonization of the world’s energy and transport systems, industrial production, and land use by the middle of this century.” Climate policy-makers have been focusing on fossil fuels and on curtailing emissions from carbon-hungry infrastructure and industries, while low-balling the importance of the massive carbon stores in nature, especially Earth’s remaining primary forests.
    Not only are we in the midst of an intensifying species extinction event, the world’s ecosystems are being dismantled. The relentless loss of biodiversity continues to damage the functioning and resilience of ecosystems and their ability to provide the goods and services needed by human societies.
    (2021) Fairy Creek Old Growth.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By Dominick A. Dellasala, et al
    Scientists are increasingly alarmed by the accelerating climate and biodiversity crises, as, for example, Ripple and colleagues (2020), recently published in BioScience and signed by three of us (DAD, BM, BR) during the initiating letter. However, decision-makers rarely recognize the inextricable link between biodiversity and climate change. We cannot solve one without the other. Earth’s biosphere contains enormous carbon stocks that have the potential to fundamentally alter the trajectory of climate change. Biodiversity is crucial for stabilizing these carbon stocks and keeping them out of the atmosphere.
    The climate change mitigation benefit of forests in general is to store large amounts of carbon in a stable, self-regenerating and long-term reservoir. Therefore, even if we eliminate fossil fuels, continued deforestation and forest degradation will generate severe climate disruptions: the carbon stocks in the living biomass of primary (unlogged) tropical forests alone is approximately 114 petagrams of carbon, equivalent to the estimated global carbon budget for a 66% probability of meeting the 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming target. While most climate policy is aimed at fossil fuels, it is critically important to also protect forest carbon. The mitigation potential of forests is recognized by Ripple and colleagues (2020) and others (Griscom et al. 2017) but the significance of protecting forests, especially primary forests, is not sufficiently promoted.
    Primary forests represent roughly one-third of remaining forests globally (Mackey et al. 2014). They contain irreplaceable biodiversity intertwined with critical ecosystem services that help regulate the global climate and maintain stable carbon pools. Carbon-dense primary forests are found in every major forest biome and they typically support higher levels of biodiversity than logged forests, especially imperiled and endemic species. These forests store approximately 30%–50% more carbon than logged ones, with the largest trees accounting for most of the above ground living stores. Some of the densest terrestrial carbon pools are in primary boreal forests in the peatlands of Canada and Russia, Pacific coastal temperate rainforests, wet temperate eucalypt forests in southeast Australia, and west coast temperate rainforests in Chile and New Zealand.
    Despite claims that tree planting is essential to stabilize the global climate, the mitigation potential of planting trees is trivial if we do not prioritize primary forest protection followed by proforestation of logged forests (Moomaw et al. 2019). Ceasing deforestation and degradation of primary forests has an immediate mitigation benefit, whereas carbon stored in newly planted trees will take many decades to make a significant contribution to reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Proforestation that buffers and reconnects even small areas of primary forests would improve ecosystem integrity, stability, and long-term carbon storage.
    We applaud scientists who sound the alarm about the climate and biodiversity crises. We now need to prioritize the most effective nature-based climate solutions, led by primary forests protections and proforestation, and supported by much needed forest-climate policies and greatly expanded financial investments (Mackey et al. 2014).
    (2020) Primary Forests Are Undervalued in the Climate Emergency.pdf

    Evergreen Alliance Staff
    By Karen Price, Rachel Holt, and Dave Daust
    The Province has appointed a task force to investigate the state of BC’s old growth forest. The panel will report to government in April 2020.
    The old growth task force website1 shows a map of the old growth forest in BC — and says “Based on government’s working definition, old-growth forests comprise about 23% of forested areas, or about 13.2 million hectares”.
    We have written this report because old growth cannot be portrayed by a single number or map. Old forest comes in many forms.
    We have used publicly available provincial data and definitions to examine the status of different types of old forest found across the province in different ecosystems (biogeoclimatic variants) and productivity classes. These distinctions matter because while all forms of old growth have inherent value, different types provide tremendously different habitat, functional, cultural, spiritual and timber values. BC’s globally rare high productivity forests have particular value for their high biomass, structural complexity and stable carbon storage.
    Our analysis concludes the following:
    The provincial total area of old forest (~13.2 million hectares) matches our total.
    The vast majority of this forest (80%) consists of small trees:
    ›  ~5.3 million hectares have site index2 5–10m; another ~5.3 million hectares have a site index 10–15m.
    ›  Small trees characterize many of BC’s natural old forest types, including black spruce bog forests in the northeast, subalpine forests at high elevation, and low productivity western redcedar forests on the outer coast.
    ›  Large areas of this old forest type remain because the trees are too small to be worth harvesting (under today’s prices).
    In contrast, only a tiny proportion of BC’s remaining old forest (3%) supports large trees:
    › ~380,000 hectares have a site index 20–25m, and only ~35,000 hectares of old forest have a site index greater than 25m.
    › These types of forests match most people’s vision of old growth. They provide unique habitats, structures, and spiritual values associated with large trees.
    › Productive old forests are naturally rare in BC. Sites with the potential to grow very large trees cover less than 3% of the province. Old forests on these sites have dwindled considerably due to intense harvest so that only 2.7% of this 3% is currently old (see pie chart). These ecosystems are effectively the white rhino of old growth forests. They are almost extinguished and will not recover from logging.
    › Over 85% of productive forest sites have less than 30% of the amount of old expected naturally, and nearly half of these ecosystems have less than 1% of the old forest expected naturally. This current status puts biodiversity, ecological integrity and resilience at high risk today.
    BC's Old Growth Forest-A Last Stand for Biodiversity (2020).pdf

    Raven Tree
    Recommended by Herb Hammond
    AS THE TERRESTRIAL HUMAN FOOTPRINT continues to expand, the amount of native forest that is free from significant damaging human activities is in precipitous decline. There is emerging evidence that the remaining intact forest supports an exceptional confluence of globally significant environmental values relative to degraded forests, including imperilled biodiversity, carbon sequestration and storage, water provision, indigenous culture and the maintenance of human health. Here we argue that main- taining and, where possible, restoring the integrity of dwindling intact forests is an urgent priority for current global efforts to halt the ongoing biodiversity crisis, slow rapid climate change and achieve sustainability goals. Retaining the integrity of intact forest ecosystems should be a central component of proactive global and national environmental strategies, alongside current efforts aimed at halting deforestation and promoting reforestation.
    To read more (on your desktop or laptop) click here.
    If your phone or tablet can read a PDF, click on the following link: The exceptional value of intact forest ecosystems.pdf

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