The role of forest management in greenhouse-gas mitigation: a contextual framework for Australia

This paper examines how carbon values should be incorporated into Australian forest management and how forests could best be managed to take up and store carbon from the atmosphere.

The paper describes the political and social forces that are focussing on carbon as a forest value to be included in forest management planning. It then goes on to consider Forest carbon in Australia (an overview of the context); the full role of forests to reduce atmospheric CO2; measurement of forest carbon; and management of forest carbon.

The two key messages are that when timber products are used instead of high-CO2 producing products (i.e. steel, concrete etc.) the ‘saved’ CO2 is permanently prevented from being released into the atmosphere; the second finding is that carbon stored in forests is not preserved in perpetuity and cannot be ‘locked up’. Rather, forests are dynamic living systems that are able to sequester large amounts of atmospheric CO2 into biomass. Carbon can be stored either in forest landscapes or in harvested wood products. Carbon stored in wood products can slow the constant cycle of forest carbon being returned to the atmosphere, such as when trees naturally die and decay, or through bushfire.

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