With increasing human activities in the past, the emission of greenhouse gases has been on a high. However, the greenhouse effect was considered to be beneficial for the environment. It was essential to maintain a balance in the planet’s temperature. But these gases have instead caused more harm than benefit leading to global warming. The uncontrollable human activities have surged the levels of these gases in the atmosphere. Thus, disturbing the ecological balance. One of the significant gases is carbon dioxide. The burning of fossil fuels, smoke emitted from industries, and excessive pollution have all caused an increase in the atmosphere’s carbon levels. As per the statistics, since the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide emissions have increased from 40% to 400 ppm. The US today report states that carbon emissions have seen the most massive jump in seven years. All this is causing climatic changes and is also endangering species. The sudden floods, desertification of the land, landslides are all the results of excessive carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
Therefore, the need of the hour is to keep a check on carbon emissions and find out ways to reduce it significantly. According to the global carbon project report, the year 2018 recorded high emission of carbon due to the use of coal, fuel, and oil. One such way is carbon sequestration, which is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. The carbon is stored for long periods in plants, soil, and oceans. It will help in reducing global climate change and maintain the balance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. All the natural resources like forests, oceans, earth, and plants help capture the carbon from the atmosphere and reduce the carbon footprint.
What role does forest play in carbon sequestration and storage?
Forests are a significant part of the carbon cycle. The amount of carbon stored can vary over time as forests tend to grow and mature. Afforestation practices and regenerating forests are natural ways of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These solutions are cost-effective and mitigate the risk of climate change. While we plan to use forests for carbon removal, the people dependent on the forests for their livelihood mustn’t be affected. By integrating trees in multiple land use, the country will sequester or store around 2.5 or 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2030. There are approximately 87 million hectares of land in India, which can reduce and store carbon dioxide through agroforestry. States like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra have the highest potential for agroforestry in India. Forests act as an essential carbon pool that exchanges carbon dioxide with the atmosphere. Carbon is found in the forest in the form of –
- Deadwood and plant biomass and litter are all some of the essential sources of nutrients for plant growth.
- Biomass stores carbon consisting of wood and non-wood materials.
- The soil organic matter, also known as humus, is also a substantial carbon pool.
- Approximately 31 percent of the carbon is stored in the biomass and 69 percent in the soil.
- The process of photosynthesis also makes forests carbon sinkers and helps in reducing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide is fixed in the plant’s chlorophyll parts and is then integrated into complex organic molecules used by the plant.
Some ways in which forests can help mitigate and sequester carbon dioxide.
- Planting more trees- planting trees and promoting afforestation, enriching existing forests, and rehabilitating degraded forests- will help prevent carbon in the biomass. Carbon storage in products like boards, plywood, furniture also helps in reducing carbon emissions. Agroforestry and planting of multiple-use trees will also help in removing carbon from the atmosphere.
- Protecting the existing forests from activities like deforestation- the data has already stated the amount of carbon reservoirs in the forest is in biomass and soil, making it necessary to protect our natural resources and curb such agricultural activities that deteriorate the forests reservoirs. Preserving the existing forests will protect the reserves and contribute more effectively to carbon storage and preserve the biodiversity associated with old-growth forests.
- Deploying new and improved forestry techniques to reduce carbon emissions- some forestry methods degrade the forest and the soil. Such methods should be adopted to improve forestry and reduce carbon emissions. Forest harvesting causes damage to the soil if done inappropriately. Such techniques like pre-planning skidding trails, optimizing landings, directional felling, employing appropriate skidders, etc. improve the soil’s condition, harvested trees, and the remaining stand. Timber processing also damages the forest and generates less amount of waste wood. Improving the forest industry efficiency helps in limiting the amount of wood waste created during the production process. Techniques like increasing product yield, reducing residues, adding production lines that utilize them as parquet, molding, etc. will help improve the forest’s efficiency to reduce carbon emissions and use wood waste in combined heat and power generation.
- Using climate-friendly substitutes- using Lumbar in place of materials that require a large amount of energy during production reduces carbon emissions. The statistics state that Using 1m3of lumber in buildings sequesters 1 ton of CO2for an average period of 20 years and reduces net emissions by 0.3.
- Using renewable wood energy- substituting coal, natural gas, oil by fuelwood for domestic use, industrial or electricity production, can reduce carbon emissions as renewable wood is being used. The fuelwood production is done sustainably and increases the productivity of forests. It is thus increasing the capacity of carbon sequestration.
- The states can also adopt the carbon offset program by forming markets that can create an economic value for activities that positively impact carbon sequestration and storage. The standard carbon offset includes the practice of afforestation, restoration, improved forest management, and reduced deforestation.
Forests as natural resources can sustain carbon and have the power to reduce and remove carbon emissions. Afforestation practices and planting of trees has increased in the past few years and is the highest among the other tropical countries. The annual productivity had increased from 0.7 m3 per hectare in 1985 to 1.37 m3 per hectare in 1995. This increase indicates an increase in biomass and higher carbon sequestration power. Statistics state that our forests have removed approximately 0.125 Gt of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The statistics clearly show that the forests and plants can extract and store large amounts of carbon emissions.