Forestry Focus

Carbon Sequestration

The increase in greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere is considered to be one of the main causes of global warming. Human activity is releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide, principally through the burning of fossil fuels to power industry, transport, heating etc. Land-use changes such as the unsustainable exploitation and destruction of tropical forests are also having an impact.

Trees and woodlands play an important role in the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Through the biochemical process of photosynthesis carbon dioxide is taken in by trees and stored as carbon in the trunk, branches, leaves and roots. Carbon is also stored in the soil and indeed this is a major sink for carbon in the forest. Decay of the organic material eventually releases the CO2 back to the atmosphere, and providing the forests are sustainably managed, it is taken up by replacement trees, thereby maintaining a balance in the carbon budget.  The release of CO2, however, can be delayed through the harvesting of trees as they mature if the wood is used for construction, furniture and other end uses that prolong its life.

Sustainable forestry is positively contributing to the carbon sequestration and is an important management tool is combating climate change. International agreements to regulate carbon emissions such as the Kyoto Protocol recognise the importance of forests as carbon sinks.  The area of forest this is taken into account when deriving national targets for allowable emissions.

The documents referenced below explain the forest carbon cycle, the amount of carbon being sequestered by Irish forests and issues concerning forestry and carbon.

Carbon Sequestration and Irish Forest Ecosystems  Edited by Kevin G. Black and Edward P. Farrell, Coford (2006).

Forests, Carbon and Climate Change – Local and International Perspectives  Proceedings of the COFORD conference, 19 September 2007. Edited by Eugene Hendrick and Kevin G. Black.

Carbon Sequestration in Irish Forests  by Kenneth A. Byrne and Kevin Black. Coford Connects Information Note Environment No3. (2003).

Climate change and Irish forestry by Eugene Hendrick and Kevin Black. Coford Connects Information Note Environment No 9. (2009).

Report by two Oireachtas committees on the EU green paper on protecting European forests against climate change