Sophisticated Forestry Techniques Increase Carbon Storage Capacity – And Value – of Forests

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A series of sophisticated modern forestry techniques effectively mimic the state of old-growth forest habitats to boost their carbon absorption rates, helping to mitigate climate change and increasing their monetary value. That doesn’t mean these conventional timberlands aren’t still growing and harvesting trees for sale as logs – they’re just growing faster. The techniques harvest timber in a way that mimics natural disturbances of old forests, like wind storms, releasing the crowns of large older trees by cutting less vigorous trees around them.

That gives those older trees lots of sunlight so they grow new wood and leaves faster than usual, and in turn, store more carbon dioxide so it isn’t released into the atmosphere. The ‘structural complexity enhancement’ technique, or SCE, shows dramatically higher levels of carbon storage than conventional ‘single-tree’ and ‘group’ harvest selection techniques – and they increase biodiversity, too.

This approach keeps more carbon on-site, even when accounting for the life cycle of carbon in wood products. The carbon storage factor could prove to be profitable for landowners who not only manage forests to sell logs, but could also earn money in the ‘carbon markets’ that have been sprouting up around the United States and the world.

The study, carried out over two decades on northern hardwood and mixed hardwood-conifer forest plots on the side of Mount Mansfield in northern Vermont, was published in the journal Ecosphere on April 6th, 2017.

“We were very surprised that the growth rate of trees in the structural complexity areas exceeded the areas with conventional treatments,” says University of Vermont forest ecologist Bill Keeton, who co-led the study. “This overturns previous dogma that more heavily thinned areas would have faster growth that would sequester carbon more rapidly than old trees.”

This Wooden Structure Has a Lower Carbon Footprint Than an iPhone 6

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How can an architectural wooden structure that towers above the average person have a smaller carbon footprint than a gadget that fits into the palm of your hand? It’s all in the materials. An installation entitled ‘The Invisible Store of Happiness’ by designer Sebastian Cox and sculptor Laura Ellen Bacon stands as an example of the sustainability of wood, as well as its beauty and versatility, with ribbon-like sections of wood bent to create an intricate design within the structure’s core.

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Standing beneath the 16th century arch of St. John’s Gate in London, the structure is made of steam-bent and twisted lengths of wood. Cox, who specializes in designing and building wooden furniture using traditional techniques, and Bacon, known for large site-specific sculptures made of woven and knotted wood, brought their complementary skills together to build a single structure. They got the idea after researching how much carbon is expended in the manufacture of Apple’s iPhone 6.

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“We set ourselves the challenge of making the whole piece for less carbon than an iPhone 6,” Cox told Dezeen. “Every element in the making process was considered in the context of how it would affect the end figure of 100 kilograms of CO2.”

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The structure ended up standing 9.2 feet tall, and acts as a metaphorical store of carbon, who recorded every kilogram of CO2 that was expended on the project during its manufacture and transport. Concentric layers of cherry and maple wood are set within the frame, attached by 380 clueless mortise and tenon joints. Each piece of wood was soaked in water overnight and then steamed at a very high temperature to make it pliable before being bent around formers and clamped in place as it cooled.


It’s a beautiful testament to the sustainability of wood, not to mention the lasting beauty and quality of time-honored wood joinery techniques.