Video: Vermont forests consume more than half of VT human carbon emissions, are source of 18,000 jobs

By Guy Page

Ed Larson, professional forester and lobbyist for the Vermont Forest Productions Association, describes in this Vermont Daily Chronicle video about the powerful economic impact and carbon sequestration of Vermont forests and the industry working in them.

The $1.5 billion state industry employs about 18,000 Vermonters. More than half of all manmade carbon emissions are consumed by Vermont trees — a fact that climate legislators are hesitant to consider as part of Vermont’s emissions reduction strategy, Larson said at the VFPA “Card Room” display at the Vermont State House today.

In the latest VFPA legislative report, Larson notes that the Act 250 revision was voted out of the House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife Committee by a margin more narrow than it at first appears. If two absent members had been there — Tom Terenzini (R-Rutland) and Harvey Smith (R-New Haven) had not been sick, the vote would have been 6-5 in favor. Chair Amy Sheldon was asked to wait until they were back on the next day of the Legislature, but instead took the vote, which was 6-3-2.

The Act 250 revision (H.926) is likely to be voted out of the House this week, at which point it will go to the Senate for its review.

Despite the apparent carbon sequestration value of Vermont forests, studies and legislation to “monetize” carbon sequestration through the sale of “carbon storage credits” seem uncertain to become law this year. Areas of contention include whether the carbon credits should be sold into California’s robust market — thus reducing California’s official carbon footprint but not Vermont’s — or whether Vermont should create its own system to help sequestration meet our own stringent carbon reduction goals.

Read more of Guy Page’s reports.

10 thoughts on “Video: Vermont forests consume more than half of VT human carbon emissions, are source of 18,000 jobs

  1. For all 5 examples, see URL

    Example 4; Clearcutting in Watershed 5 at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, NH in 1983: Previous work on forest carbon stocks took place over short time spans, but Sanderman and his colleagues spent 16 years tracking a single forest in New Hampshire. The research team sampled soils prior to the whole-tree harvest of Watershed 5 at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in 1983, a watershed in New Hampshire, and then sampled again in years 3, 8, and 15 following the harvest.

    The researchers found that it took 15 years of biomass accumulation to simply offset the carbon losses incurred in the mineral soil, leading to a near-zero net carbon gain over the study period, after including the decay of forest floor slash and roots. “Clearcut harvesting can have sustained negative impacts on soil resources,” Sanderman said. See URLs

    In other words, the soil loses significant carbon while treeless, and even when the tree canopy returns, the soil’s carbon storage remains well below its original carbon level even after 15 years.

    “While this is only one location, this study used massive soil sampling campaigns over time to do an excellent job tracking soil carbon pools, so we are very confident in the findings. Most studies of soil carbon changes following forestry use what’s known as a chronosequence – studying several distinct sites of varying ages and assuming they’re representative over time,” Sanderman said.

    It’s unclear exactly what happens to the carbon in the soil. The two most probable fates are decomposition and release to the atmosphere as CO2 or runoff into waterways, but the researchers say future studies are needed.

    The study has implications for forest policy, especially in light of increasing demand for wood burning for heating and electricity production. If forest harvesting is expanded, it will take substantially longer than previously assumed to offset CO2 emissions related to harvesting and subsequent wood burning with carbon uptake during forest regrowth”.

  2. Five Examples of the C Neutrality Period

    Five examples of clearcutting and carbon release from belowground biomass are described.

    Example 1 is for the effects of harvesting on two Upper Great Lakes forest ecosystems
    Example 2 is for the effects of clearcutting on the Canadian boreal forests
    Example 3 is for the effects of clearcutting on a planted, fertilized, managed forest in British Columbia.
    Example 4 is for the effects of clearcutting of a naturally regrowing forest in the Hubbard Experimental Forest in New Hampshire.
    Example 5 is for the effects of clearcutting of forests in Oregon.

    Example 1; Simulated long‐term effects of harvest and biomass residue removal on soil carbon and nitrogen content and productivity for two Upper Great Lakes forest ecosystems, by Scott D. Peckham and Stith T. Gower

    The image from the article shows net ecosystem productivity, NEP, versus years after harvest.
    NEP (metric ton/ha/y) = CO2 absorbed by growing biomass – CO2 released by decaying biomass. If decay is high, the NEP may become negative.

    The image shows a light harvest as dotted lines. The net ecosystem productivity, NEP, rapidly decreases, but does not become negative. It would take the harvested area some years to get back to the carbon neutral condition to offset the downturn of NEP, and then resume its absorption of CO2 at about the same level as before. And then gradually decrease to the steady state levels of a mature forest.

    The image shows a heavy harvest as solid lines. The heavier the harvest, the deeper the downturn of NEP, and the longer it takes for the harvested area to get back to the carbon neutral condition, and then resume its absorption of CO2 at about the same level as before.

    The belowground fauna and flora, which feeds on dead biomass, suddenly finds itself surrounded by an abundance of dead biomass, due to the harvest. Their populations take some time to rapidly increase to “process” it, which produces decay products, such as CO2 released to the atmosphere. About 60% of the biomass of a tree is belowground. See table 3.

    With a light harvest, the harvested area sequesters less CO2 than before, for a few years.
    With a heavy harvest, the NEP of the harvested area becomes negative, i.e., it is a source of CO2.
    With a clearcut harvest, the NEP of the harvested area stays negative for about 15 years and then it takes about 20 to 23 years of positive NEP to offset the 15 negative years.

    Any combustion CO2 of year 1 would have to wait around in the atmosphere until about year 40 to start its absorption period, which takes about 90 to 100 years. After it is fully reabsorbed by new tree growth on our harvested area, it has fulfilled the assertion: “Burning wood is renewable”.

  3. If trees absorb CO2, and release Oxygen, then lets cut them and burn them and make CO2, and reduce Oxygen, to heat the State House so that the lawmakers can be comfortable while they try to think of ways to cure Climate Change.

    Nature and the population will win this battle, IF the expert$ and the Legi$lators, and Congre$$
    will just leave us alone

  4. The TCI FASCIST WarmMongers are more interested in making you pay their energy SIN tax
    Then actually doing something about the Evil Plant food co2…

  5. Hey, I’ve a great idea. It’s a win, win for the lib Dems, pass a law which taxes every tree in our forests, and if they don’t pay, CUT THEM DOWN!!! That will solve the emissions problems and save the folks thousands of delibating tax dollars.

  6. According to VT-ANR, Vermont’s forests absorb about 45% of Vermont’s total emissions.

    However, heavy logging, 50% or more, commonly practiced on wood lots, damages the below ground biomass.

    It dies, decays, and emits CO2 for 80 to 100 years in colder climates.

    New growth takes place on the harvested areas.

    It takes about 35 years for the decay CO2 to be equal to CO2 absorbed by the new growth on the harvested areas; the so-called C-neutrally period.

    For accounting/renewable purposes, any combustion CO2 would not start to be absorbed by the harvested areas until after the C-neutrality period, and that absorption would take 80 to 100 years.

    That CO2 event is well known among research foresters, but it is usually not known by other foresters.

    • Very interesting info on decay CO2. It makes a lot of sense. Like the artic tundra thawing and CO2 being released by the biomass. I wonder what the new composting regulation will do to add CO2 and methane to the atmosphere?
      Thanks for the science lesson.

  7. Hey Liberals, why do you think Vermont is the cleanest State in the Union,
    it not because you have a Prius !!

    The $1.5 billion state industry employs about 18,000 Vermonters, more than half of
    all manmade carbon emissions are consumed by Vermont trees, Liberals want the
    TCI Tax because for there agenda, …. If your ” thinking green “, then think Trees !!!

    Wake up people, before they ruin the State.

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