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Carbon Sequestration in Irish Forests

This is an extract from a paper by
Kenneth A. Byrne, Forest Ecosystem Research Group, Department of Environmental Resource Management, Faculty of Agriculture, University College Dublin and Kevin Black, Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, University College Dublin
Download the full PDF HERE

Increasing atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs), derived from the burning of fossil fuel, deforestation, land-use change and industrial processes, are causing climate change.

Forests play an important role in the global carbon cycle; a clear understanding of this role is necessary to comprehend and combat the climate change and its consequences.

There are a number of ways that forests can be used to influence GHG emissions to the atmosphere, not only through the maintenance of existing forests and the creation of new ones, but also in the utilisation of wood products for energy and in the displacement of energy intensive products.

The rate of C sequestration can be affected by many factors, including changes in land use, forest management activities such as harvesting and fertilisation, changes in climate, nitrogen deposition and disease outbreaks.

The Kyoto Protocol has established targets for the reduction of GHG emissions and identified mechanisms by which these can be achieved. The rules and modalities for achieving these reductions are set out in the Marrakesh Accords.

Forest inventories provide a practical basis for estimating stocks of carbon in biomass.

The forest carbon cycle
The ability of forests to store and sequester atmospheric carbon is well known and established. Indeed, forests represent the largest global terrestrial store of carbon, containing approximately 39% of global soil carbon and 77% of global vegetation carbon (Bolin et al. 2000). Terrestrial ecosystems are both sources and sinks for carbon. For instance, during the 1990s terrestrial ecosystems sequestered 22% of the carbon released by fossil fuel emissions. On the other hand, land-use change in the same period (e.g. afforestation, deforestation, agriculture and fire) was a net source of C release to the atmosphere equivalent to approximately 34% of fossil fuel emissions (Houghton 2002). It is therefore evident that forests and land-use play an important role in the global carbon cycle and that a clear understanding of this role is a vital component of attempts to understand and combat the causes and consequences of climate change

The full Paper can be found HERE