Overflowing with carbon


A new study from the Wilderness Society shows that Pacific Northwest forests are the national leader — by a huge margin — in carbon storage. To get a sense of just how much, “carbon stored in the trees and soils of the moist national forests in Washington, Oregon and southeast Alaska totals some 9.8 billion metric tons. By comparison, one year of fossil fuel burned in the United States contains 5.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide,” according to this story from the Tacoma News Tribune.

The Olympic National Forest tied with Umpqua National Forest in Oregon as the second-best carbon bank of all the 120 national forests in the country, according to the report. Willamette National Forest in Oregon was No. 1, and Gifford Pinchot Forest in southwest Washington ranked fourth.

“The mature and old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska are among the Earth’s greatest carbon-storing ecosystems,” said Jerry Franklin, professor of ecosystem analysis at the University of Washington’s College of Forest Resources.

These forests act as giant piggy banks, storing up carbon, said Mike Anderson, a Wilderness Society senior resource analyst and a co-author of the report.

The region’s mature trees, moisture, productive soils, long growing season and relative lack of forest fire all contribute to the high carbon density in the national forests, Anderson said.

It’s clear that the Northwest’s forests are a valuable weapon in the fight against climate change, and that protecting these forests from development, through conservation and responsible harvesting, is critical. We’re not just helping ourselves, we have a resource that can help the world.