Climate Resilience

Oregon & Washington’s forests are amazing at carbon storage

Source: Beverly E. Law, et al. (2018). Land use strategies to mitigate climate change in carbon dense temperate forests

The dark blue areas show forest areas that are storing the most carbon. Storing carbon, rather than releasing it into the air, is the key to slowing down climate change.

Oregon’s forests can help us keep our climate stable by capturing and storing vast amounts of carbon, but only if we protect old-growth forests and promote ecological forestry.

  • Scientists have found that the best way to remove carbon from the atmosphere at a scale that can meaningfully contribute to climate stability is to better preserve the world’s forests (Artaxo et al. 2018). This is especially relevant to our state, where forests can store carbon at a higher density per acre than almost any other ecosystem in the world (Hudiburg et al. 2009).
  • As forests grow, trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their trunks, branches, and extensive
    root networks. This natural process, known as “carbon
    sequestration,” converts carbon dioxide into a solid that
    remains safely stored for long periods of time.
  • In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, we must rapidly reduce fossil fuel emissions while simultaneously
    increasing the amount of carbon stored in the world’s
    forest ecosystems (IPCC 2019).

What happens to carbon when trees are cut?

Logging releases carbon into the atmosphere

  • When forests are logged, much of the carbon is released into the atmosphere. This chart shows that after logging, 85% of the carbon is no longer safely stored in the forest, but is emitted into the atmosphere, contributing to hotter drier weather and more extreme natural disasters.  (Hudiburg et al. 2011; Harmon 2019; Hudiburg et al. 2019). 
  • The best way to keep forest-carbon out of the atmosphere is to keep it stored in mature forest  ecosystems – not wood products (Hudiburg et al. 2013; Law et al. 2011; Harmon et al. 1990).

Restoring our Carbon Debt

The mismanagement of Oregon’s forests
over the past century has transferred massive amounts of forest-carbon to the atmosphere, creating a “carbon debt” that we can only repay through improved forest practices.

  • Climate-smart forestry involves letting trees grow longer before logging  and leaving more trees behind after logging, which results in more  resilient forests and greater carbon storage than the current industrial  model. Research has found that forests in the Pacific Northwest adhering  to “Forest Stewardship Council” (FSC) standards store roughly 30% more  carbon than current forests practices (Diaz et al. 2018). 

Pacific Northwest Forests store carbon per acre than almost any other ecosystem in the world. This chart shows how the current industrial timber practices have released much of that carbon into the atmosphere.