MAY 22, 2017 10:56 AM PDT

When deforestation is a good thing


More than 13,300 of Northern Scotland's tree plantations are being cut down in the name of climate change. This region is dominated by bog mosses, which absorb carbon dioxide; but in last decades the trees have been planted over the bogs for the timber industry, which damages the bogs and limits their carbon storing capacities.

When the mosses in the bogs die, the wet acidic soil only partially lets them decompose. This dead material becomes peat, which stores vast amounts of CO2 in the ground - more than any other terrestrial ecosystem on the planet. The presence of trees messes up that process because tree roots expose the peat, drying it out, and releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. Scientists in Scotland have been monitoring the carbon released in open landscapes versus forested landscapes, and have determined that restored open landscapes are the best carbon sinks.

That is why since 1997 these scientists have been cutting down trees, moistening the bogs, and letting the peat take its natural form again. In this very particular case, deforestation is the way to go!
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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