Geographia Polonica (2000) vol. 73, iss. 2

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The role of forest ecosystems and wood in controlling the absorption and emission of carbon dioxide

Kazimierz Rykowski

Geographia Polonica (2000) vol. 73, iss. 2, pp. 65-88

Abstract

Forests play a quadruple role in the processes of global change: (1) as a cause, i.e. a source of the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), predominantly in result of defore-station; (2) as a "victim" of global climatic change, due to the increased sensitivity of trees to pests and diseases; (3) as a beneficiary of global changes thanks to the "fertiliser effect"; (4) as a" remedy" for global changes thanks to their ability to sequester carbon. The role of forests depends thus on methods of management and the ways in which forest products are used. Proper forest management can improve carbon accumulation through forest stand reconstruction, tending of forests, introduction of second layer and understorey, increas-ing organic matter, resignation of clear-cutting, elimination of intensive soil preparation. The basic method of improving carbon balance in land ecosystems is change in land use, above all via afforestation. The paper discusses the effects of forestry operations dealing with carbon accumulation in the forest ecosystems.As equally important mechanism for improving carbon content in the atmosphere the author presents the repetitious recycling of timber production and its substitution in regard to materi-als and products requiring high amounts of energy input for manufacturing and utilisation (plastic, steel, aluminum, cement, bricks etc.) along with fossil sources of energy (timber combustion is neutral as far as emission of CO2 is concerned). Resignation from fossil energy sources, using the biomass energy and retention of carbon by the proper forestry management offers a chance to attain the planet Earth atmosphere according to the level existing before industrial revolution - within some 100 years to come. The Kyoto Protocol may help to improve the balance. The Protocol, actually a politico-economic inter-governmental agree-ment, is reviewed in the paper on the background of the Polish forest economy.

Keywords: forest management, climate change, carbon sequestration, wood utilisation

Kazimierz Rykowski, Forest Research Institute, Department of Ecology and Environmental Protection, Sekocin Las, 09-090 Raszyn, Poland