Friday, November 13, 2009

Boreal Forests Ignored in Climate Change Fight

With all the talk of stopping tropical deforestation as a means of slowing global warming, CBC reminds us of the climatic importance of the boreal forests of the great north:

When climate change negotiators consider forests' carbon storage potential, they usually look at tropical forests because they are being logged at a faster rate than the northern boreal, said ecologist and report co-author Jeff Wells.

But soil in boreal forests — like those found in Canada's north — is much deeper than in tropical forests and hence stores much more carbon, said Wells, a visiting fellow at Cornell University.

Yet scientists have only recently taken into account the boreal's deeper soils and slower rate of decay of leaf litter, which also stores carbon.

"There were a series of estimates around 2000, 2001 that put the amount of carbon in boreal regions at between about 400 and 700 gigatonnes. And in the last year, the published estimates place it at two to three times that," said Wells. "But those 2000 to 2001 estimates have been what people have been using."

Oh boy...  Well, all that unaccounted for carbon might help explain why as the northern latitudes warm, accelerating decomposition rates (which rise with rising temperatures), climate change is happening faster than expected... 

You know how sometimes, I write that when it comes to destabilizing the biosphere, we really have no idea what we're messing with?  It's stories like this that provide an example of why I say that.

Will the earth's current advanced primate populations human civilizations learn to live more sustainably the easy way or the hard way?  That's essentially the question we're dealing with in Copenhagen.

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Read Mongabay's take>>

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