Maintaining forests’ contribution to global carbon cycles

Forests are renewable and one of the largest terrestrial reservoirs of biomass and soil carbon. They have an important role in global carbon cycles as sinks and sources of carbon.

Carbon stocks in forests include above ground biomass, below ground biomass, dead and decaying organic matter and soil carbon. Carbon is also stored in wood products.

Forest management practices affect the carbon cycle and fluxes. Deforestation has a negative impact, but management activities that maintain and enhance the carbon stored in forests and forest products over the medium to long term can help to mitigate atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. In addition, biomass from forests (usually wood waste) can be used as a substitute for fossil fuels, thereby reducing their use and displacing greenhouse gas emissions.

Measuring forests’ contribution to carbon cycles

The Montreal Process indicators used for measuring forests’ contribution to global carbon cycles are:

(i)    forest ecosystem carbon pools and fluxes

(ii)    forest product carbon pools and fluxes

(iii)   avoided fossil fuel carbon emissions by using forest biomass for energy

  • Forest carbon stocks increased between 1990 and 2012 by 7.4 percent to 3 298 million tonnes of carbon. Of this total, 86.2 percent was in indigenous forests and 13.8 percent in plantation planted forests.
  • About 7 percent (57.83 petajoules) of New Zealand’s primary energy supply comes from forest biomass. This has increased 44 percent since 2008.

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