Ancient ForestsPosted: December 24, 2010
There are majestic trees on this planet that have been standing for several generations. Along the West coast of North America, from California to British Columbia, lies one of the rarest ecosystems on Earth, the Ancient temperate rainforest. With trees like the Western Red Cedar and Douglas fir ranging from a few hundred to over a thousand years old, it is no wonder why they have been under attack by the logging industry. We need to ban the logging of the remaining Ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest in order to fight climate change, protect the overall health of the ecosystem, and maintain a vibrant tourism industry.
Ancient forests play an important role in the fight against climate change, as they are able to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. A key finding in a Sierra Club report states that “A 400 year old forest stand stored typically more than double the carbon stored by a 60 year old stand and the ability to recover carbon stores is limited for hundreds of years” (Sierra Club, 2009 p.20). This means that second growth forests cannot effectively recapture the amount of carbon lost in their lifetime. In British Columbia, logging has been responsible for emitting 370 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is 5 times greater than the average annual emissions of the entire province (Sierra Club, 2009). By logging ancient forests, we are putting ourselves at a greater risk of reaching the tipping points in climate change, which will have worldwide catastrophic events. Along with being carbon sinks, these forests are also a home to other living creatures.
Old-growth forests are ecosystems full of biodiversity and interconnections, and logging needs to be stopped in order to protect this critical habitat. There are hundreds of species, such as the Northern Spotted Owl, that are dependent on Ancient forests for their home. Without this ecosystem, they are at a greater risk of extinction (Devall, 1994). Aside from mass extinction, there are other environmental problems caused by logging. In the book Clearcut , it is explained that “Logging and road building in this rugged terrain with heavy rainfall often causes erosion, landslides, damage to fish bearing streams, and soil degradation” (Devall, 1994). These problems make it increasingly difficult for new forests to regenerate quickly, and the overall integrity of the landscape is lost. Having an intact Ancient forest will keep the animals happy, but also the many communities that depend on them.
Ancient forests hold cultural significance and are a major part of a valuable tourism industry. In Clayoquot Sound, a biosphere reserve on Vancouver Island, it is said that “The logging zones encroach upon the scenic corridors and animal habitats required by tourism operators and prized by visitors around the world (Canada Newswire, 2009). By clear cutting the land, the aesthetic and cultural value of the area severely decreases. If you compare the economic benefits of tourism and forestry, it is clear that forestry is no match to what a standing ancient forest can provide for the community. In 1997, Tourism employed 125,900 people and Forestry 92,250. People travel from far and wide to see these big trees, and that will stop if logging does not.
We must realize and respect the intrinsic value of Ancient forests in order to work toward a sustainable future, protect the many species that are dependent on them, and protect our lives at home. Overall, these spectacular trees are worth far more standing than cut down.