Forest management may mitigate global warming

MADISON --A study published today, Nov. 23, in the journal Science suggests that forest management may be used to restrain the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

Many groups have proposed forest management as a simple way to offset global warming. More trees, they argue, will remove from the atmosphere more carbon dioxide, a gas plants use to grow and reproduce. But, numerous climatic and ecological factors confound this apparently simple solution, report researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Harvard University.

During the last century, the world's average temperatures have risen by one degree and sea levels have risen by more than six inches as a result of increased amounts of both natural and human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Many scientists believe high levels of carbon dioxide, which is released when fossil fuels and wood products burn, could permanently alter the environment.

To investigate forest management as a method for controlling global warming, researchers conducted a decade-long study of carbon exchange between the atmosphere and Harvard Forest, a 60-year-old forest stand dominated by northern red oaks. Specifically, they measured how much carbon the trees and soils stored and how much they released.

In the short term, carbon exchange depended primarily on physical and climatic factors such as time of day or season. "At night, the trees respire, so more carbon dioxide is released from the forest," says Carol Barford, one of the researchers who now works at the UW-Madison Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment. "During the day, the trees photosynthesize, which requires the net uptake of carbon."

Seasonal patterns also produced fluctuations. The date the fall and spring seasons began, the amount of snow covering the ground or the amount of rain during the summer all seem to affect carbon exchange, she says. "Discre

Contact: Carol Barford
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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