Forests and climate change
Sir, – Your editorial of July 13th correctly draws attention to the urgent need for action to mitigate climate change. You are also correct in pointing out that carbon sequestration by forests is insufficient to address this challenge.
However, your critique of the use of plantation forests to sequester atmospheric carbon is limited. While forest establishment practices disturb the soil and lead to carbon losses, these may be compensated by carbon inputs during the lifetime of the growing plantation. The situation is different for afforested peat soils, which may continue to lose carbon in the medium to long term. In addition to storing carbon in biomass and soil, forests also have downstream benefits for climate-change mitigation, such as the displacement of both fossil fuel-based energy sources and energy-intensive construction materials. Consideration of the role of forests, be they coniferous or broadleaved, in mitigating climate change needs to consider all aspects of the forest production cycle, from establishment to harvesting and beyond. Furthermore, this is but one facet of the greater discussion regarding what type of forests we want in Ireland, and the environmental, social and economic services we wish them to provide. – Yours, etc,
University of Limerick.