Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Planting high VOC trees accelerating climate change



Update, biofuels made by a Fort Collins firm from ponderosa pine, a tree high in terpenes, will soon power Southwest, military jets. Read it here.

Hardwood forests and lighter-colored surfaces reflect sunlight and protect watersheds while the needles of conifers absorb heat creating faster snowmelt.
In summer, the eastern United States is the world’s major hot spot for volatile organic compounds (V.O.C.s) from trees. Chemical reactions involving tree V.O.C.s produce methane and ozone, two powerful greenhouse gases, and form particles that can affect the condensation of clouds. Research by my group at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and by other laboratories, suggests that changes in tree V.O.C.s affect the climate on a scale similar to changes in the earth’s surface color and carbon storage capacity. [Nadine Unger, New York Times.]
The Industrial Revolution and European settlement in the New World took hardwoods for charcoal then humans allowed fast-growing conifers to replace lost forests.

In the Mountain West vast tracts of land have been cleared by bark beetles where aquifers are being recharged: a practice well known to pre-Columbian cultures who burned forests to increase ungulate populations.

Instead of science, politics determines how public lands are managed: the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming are prime examples. Ponderosa pine is extremely high in VOC concentrations yet it is routinely replanted because the timber lobby owns the Black Hills National Forest.



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