Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tree Planting: You don't know what you got til it's gone.

Caption: Forests cover nearly a third of the Earth's landmass. Falling into three categories -- tropical, temperate and boreal -- the forest types each have differing influences on local, regional and global climate.
Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation
Usage Restrictions: None
Related news release: If a Tree Falls in the Forest, and No One Is Around to Hear It, Does Climate Change?
Image from Eureka Alert
Press Release: see
Eureka Alert for one version.

Second Image from Wikipedia

I first read about this Science article at Olelog, who explains it all pretty well, I think, and provides a few more links.

According to the article - I, who live in the temperate zone, with our house at the lake in Sierra Nevada forest and our little house in the Nevada outback in upland steppe (sagebrush zone to pinon-juniper zone), should not plant trees, but rather should strip trees and bushes, possibly either to plant wheat (winter wheat? native wheatgrass?) or to plant cement or white river rock! [These are my extrapolations, not specific statements in any of the above links.]

I think not. I will go xeriscape in places like Reno. I will not, however, cut down temperate-zone trees in order to xeriscape or plant native grasses. The effect I've noticed of having a lawn with plants and trees in desert towns like Reno is the following: green grass (not native grass that turns brown by late spring) will cool your house in the summer considerably. Cement and white river rocks around your house will heat your house in the summer considerably (the winter heating effect can be desirable, but there are other ways to achieve that goal, such as windows in all the right places).

I won't do it. MOH and I have been growing spruce trees for the last several years; I'm not about to kill them now.

Just a rant or reaction, mostly. But my interpretation, although extreme, really does suggest that stripping and not replanting forests would stop, negate, or at least slow global warming. If that is the case, then global warming in and of itself could have the effect of counteracting global warming when the temperate tree line moves north, creating grasslands across the temperate zone. (Of course, in that case, we will still have to go cut down the boreal forests!)

On another minor issue, the Science abstract uses the following phrase: "...the low albedo of boreal forests is a positive climate forcing." Why the (fairly) recent jargony use of "forcing," which now permeates the climate change literature, or at least the online literature. One could simply say: "...the low albedo of boreal forests has a positive effect on climate." OR: "...the low albedo of boreal forests increases overall global temperatures." Forcing used to be a verb. Now it's used as a noun and an adjective. Yikes, is what I say! Oh, well. I'm not in that field. I'm not going to change that usage. But it sounds jargony to me, and it sounds non-specific, also. Is a "positive climate forcing" equal to something that raises temperature, or is it merely something that has a "definite" effect rather than a "positive" effect (the latter presumably being an increase in temperature)?

I guess my only real point here is that I'm not cutting trees in my area (or in Alaska, either, for that matter) for the sake of counteracting global warming based on this Science article. I guess Johnny Appleseed should have been shot for his efforts, although try telling that to the people of Paradise, CA (for some reason, there are persistent local legends that Johnny Appleseed made it that far west!).

They took all the trees
Put 'em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see 'em

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Big Yellow Taxi (as written and sung by Joni Mitchell)
© 1966-69 Siquomb Publishing Co. BMI


Anonymous said...

I fully agree that trees and forests have other values than carbon sequestration and albedo index. All we have to do is to be conscious of why we plant trees and preserve forests - and where best to do it. in my temperate part of the world I do in fact have trees in my garden (the local birds like them).

Silver Fox said...

Birds are a good thing. :)