The increasing emission of carbon dioxide along with the warming planet is making the scientists and experts worry about the future of forests as per a report in the New York Times.
The relentless rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, as observed at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii, since the 1950s, is perhaps the most familiar scientific graph in the 21st century. It gives evidence that human activity is modifying the earth’s atmosphere at a global scale and is at the centre of the debate on global climate change.
The cause of this rise is that carbon dioxide is being emitted through the large-scale burning of oil, coal and gas, which power modern industrial economies with an additional contribution coming from the clearing of forests and woodlands. Rising carbon dioxide levels ultimately warm the planet and will eventually have devastating effect on life as we know it.
It is a fact that forests around the world store large amounts of carbon within their tree trunks, roots, leaves, stems and other biomass associated with them, such as surrounding soils. Forest sequestration is the terrestrial removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide through the biological processes of plants and trees. Thus forests are carbon stores, and they become carbon dioxide sinks when they increase in density or area.
It is seen that to further reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 7%, as stipulated by the Kyoto Protocol, it would require the planting of an area the size of Texas every 30 years.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Fourth Assessment Report: Mitigation of Climate Change has concluded that a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber fiber or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.
Sustainable management practices keep forests growing at a higher rate over a potentially longer period of time, thus, providing net sequestration benefits in addition to those of unmanaged forests. IPCC estimates that the cutting down of forests is now contributing close to 20 per cent of the overall greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.
Deforestation and forest degradation occur at an alarming rate. According to WWF, we are currently losing over 32 million acres of tropical forest each year. Many environmental scientists believe that restoring degraded land, replacing old-growth forests with young-growth forests and growing forest plantations are good approaches to offset human carbon dioxide emissions and temporarily slow down rising atmospheric temperatures.