article, Boosting Bioenergy and Carbon Storage
in Green Plants
Forests and the
way we manage them provide significant opportunities to help control
climate. A climate control effort that includes forests should account
for both the release and absorption of carbon dioxide and reward only
those activities that help slow the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
These are conclusions
of "Land Use and Global Climate Change: Forests, Land Management, and
the Kyoto Protocol," a report prepared for the Pew Center on Global
Climate Change in June 2000. The authors are Bernhard Schlamadinger
of Joanneum Research in Austria and Gregg Marland of ORNL's Environmental
Sciences Division. Schlamadinger recently completed an 18-month postdoctoral
fellowship at ORNL.
The Kyoto Protocol,
negotiated in Japan in 1997, sets forth binding targets for emissions
of greenhouse gases from developed countries. Kyoto Protocol commitments
include land use, land-use change, and forestry, but, according to Schlamadinger
and Marland, lack the effective implementation details required to realize
the potential benefits from land management. Land management can retard
the buildup of carbon dioxide by (1) slowing the loss of carbon from
plants and soils through reduced rates of deforestation and (2) encouraging
the return of carbon from the atmosphere to the terrestrial biosphere
by planting trees or improving management of forests or agricultural
The Kyoto Protocol
provides that planting new forests and clearing forested land will be
accounted for in determining compliance with national commitments to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Schlamadinger and Marland raise the
question whether it is possible under the Kyoto Protocol to protect
existing forests, plant forests where there are not now forests, and
protect or increase the carbon in agricultural soils.
The report notes
that the Kyoto Protocol recognizes that greenhouse gas emissions will
be reduced by the use of sustainably produced biomass products. "Biomass
fuels," states the report, "can be used in place of fossil fuels, and
construction wood can be used in place of other, often more energy-intensive,
materials such as steel or concrete."
Building up biomass
on the earth offers several benefits in addition to slowing the buildup
of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. According to the report, "Increasing
carbon in the terrestrial biosphere appears to be a low-cost way to
help mitigate the increasing concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide
while providing ancillary benefits in terms of protecting forests, biodiversity,
water quality, and soil fertility. Many land management activities are
attractive because they can be pursued now, without technological innovation.
Increasing carbon storage cannot by itself solve the problem of increasing
atmospheric carbon dioxide, but can help, especially in the short term."
Environmental Sciences Division