The Truth About Trees

Humans and trees  both have a death rate of 100%. That fact quite often gets lost on environmentalists who imply that a tree saved today is a tree saved forever. Bernard Heinrich, in a December 20, 2009 article titled Clear-Cutting the Truth About Trees, confronts this and other misinformation. Heinrich is a retired PHD Professor of Biology from the University of Vermont. The op-ed piece was published in the New York Times and also covered in the Dead Tree Edition.

I take exception to some of Dr. Heinrich’s views when he ventures off of forestry, but the man does know his trees. Several excerpts from the report follow, but click on the link in the previous paragraph – the full three pages is well worth reading.

Regarding the tenuous life span of our friends in the forest, he writes…

Part of the problem is the public misunderstanding of how forests and carbon relate. Trees are often called a “carbon sink” — implying that they will sop up carbon from the atmosphere for all eternity. This is not true: the carbon they take up when they are alive is released after they die, whether from natural causes or by the hand of man.

Dr. Heinrich points out how tree planting can be harmful to the ecosystem, depending on the species and climate. 

A forest is an ecosystem. It is not something planted. A forest grows on its own. There are many kinds of forests that will grow practically anywhere, each under its own special local conditions. When a tree falls, the race is on immediately to replace it. In the forests I study, there so many seeds and seedlings that if a square foot of ground space opens up, more than a hundred trees of many different species compete to grow there…

In addition, the tree planting emphasis in  the Kyoto agreement actually resulted in forest destruction.

…After much political wrangling, the Kyoto delegates decided that there would be no carbon-reduction credits for saving existing forests. Since planting new trees does get one credits, Kyoto actually created a rationale for clear-cutting old growth……what was originally intended as a mechanism for slowing global warming has created huge economic pressure for ecocide. And there will be no objections from easily duped bleeding- heart “environmentalists,” who absolutely love tree planting because it sounds so “green.”

There are also has harsh words for carbon offsets and those who claim that these offsets make a positive contribution to the environment.

Dr. Heinrich really does get to the truth about tress – truths that we seldom hear discussed in mainstream media.




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