Forests are supposed to help stop climate change. These forests didn’t

Posted by K R on

Forests play a critical role in the global carbon cycle, helping to mitigate climate change by storing carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere. So maintaining sustainable forest management practices that maximize the trees’ ability to act as a carbon sink — for example, planting more trees than we harvest — has been recognized by activists as a key strategy in the fight against climate change. But forestry has not always had the desired effect, according to recent research. A new study out in the journal Science Thursday makes the provocative claim that more than 250 years of forest management in Europe have actually contributed to climate change, rather than helped to stop it. The study reconstructs the land-use history of Europe from 1750 through the present day, taking into account both changes in land cover — that is, deforestation and afforestation — and management changes, including changes in the types of trees planted and the amount of wood harvested. The researchers then used models to examine the effects of these changes on the climate over time. Through their reconstruction, the researchers made some key observations about the ways forests have changed in Europe in the past 250 years. First, they found that while deforestation removed nearly 200,000 square kilometers (or around 75,000 square miles) of forest cover in Europe between 1750 and 1850, subsequent reforestation efforts not only made up for the losses, but actually resulted in a net gain in Europe’s overall forest cover during the study period. Read More: The Washington Post

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