By Tracey Loew
Dec. 9, 2019
A new study from Oregon State University recommends preserving, rather than logging, most forests in the Oregon and Washington Coast and Cascade mountain ranges.
Doing so could mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration and enhance biodiversity, according to the study, published Dec. 4 in the journal “Ecological Applications.”
“We are in the midst of a climate crisis and a biodiversity crisis,” said Beverly Law, a study author and professor in OSU’s Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. “Preserving these forests is one of the greatest things we can do in our region of North America to help on both fronts.”
Not logging the forests, which also include pockets in the northern Rocky Mountains, would be the carbon dioxide equivalent of halting 8 years of fossil fuel burning in the 11 western states, the scientists found.
“Smart land management can mitigate the effects of climate-induced ecosystem changes to biodiversity and watersheds, which influence ecosystem services that play a key role in human well-being,” said Polly Buotte, a study author and postdoctoral researcher.
The five-year study was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The other study authors are OSU forestry professor William Ripple, and Logan Berner, of EcoSpatial Services in Flagstaff, Arizona.Get the Daily Briefing newsletter in your inbox.
The researchers analyzed forests in the western United States to simulate potential carbon sequestration through the 21st century.
They identified forests with high carbon sequestration potential, low vulnerability to drought and fire, and high biodiversity value. They were mostly older, intact forests with high structural diversity.
“Preservation of high carbon density Pacific Northwest forests that are also economically valuable for timber production will have costs and benefits to consider, including socioenvironmental benefits, the feasibility of preservation, and opportunity costs harvest,” the authors wrote in the peer-reviewed article.
Oregon Forest & Industries Council President Kristina McNitt declined to comment on the study Monday.
The timber-industry trade group has criticized a previous study by Law, Berner and others, which concluded that timber harvest is the leading source of carbon emissions in Oregon.
The forest council said the earlier study failed to account for reforestation, which the timber industry does after harvest.