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Opinion: Mature forests are the key to reducing climate change

Opinion: Mature forests are the key to reducing climate change

Forests

Forests
Pixabay.com photo taken by jplenio

By Veronica Cassilly

Darlington is home to the writer.

Planting millions of young trees is a great thing to do, but it will not do much to mitigate the immediate effects of climate change we face in the next two or three decades because little trees just don’t store much carbon. It is vital that we preserve the existing mature forests in any climate change policy.

William Moomaw, a physical chemist and an environmental scientist, helped to establish the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts University and was a lead author for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In a recent interview with the Yale School of the Environment, Moomaw stated, “The simplest and most effective way to mitigate climate change is to allow trees that are already planted, that are already growing, to continue growing to reach their full ecological potential, to store carbon and develop a forest that has its full complement of environmental services.”

Moomaw said that “preserving existing mature forests will have a much greater effect on slowing global warming in the coming decades, since immature trees sequester far less CO2 than older ones.” Researchers have determined that most tree species remove far more CO2 from the atmosphere after they reach 50 years of age, compared to younger trees.

These mature forests hold the key for mitigating climate change.

Tragically, Maryland lost 10,000 acres in just four years according to the most recent high-resolution Chesapeake Bay Program imagery. This was between 2013 and 2017. Just as concerning, much of Maryland’s remaining forests are now threatened by invasive vines. These vines cover the trees and prevent photosynthesis, eventually growing large enough to take the trees down.

It’s not as easy as it used to be to let natural forests grow and achieve their full ecological potential.  In the past, forests could be kept in preservation and could provide all of our ecological services. With the proliferation of invasive species, this is no more true.

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These invasives must be removed from forests to ensure the health of our native trees. If we do not control the invasives, simply putting more forest in preservation will not help to mitigate climate change. The forest is not protected in our state parks.

Lawmakers in the Maryland House and Senate have said that passing aggressive climate legislation is among the top priorities for this year’s General Assembly. Legislators disagree on whether to mandate electric school buses, reduce emissions by 50% or 60%, or plant millions of trees.

Climate scientists say that to have effective and aggressive climate legislation, we need to immediately preserve our forests and simultaneously finance crews to maintain them.

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