Why the Forest is so Important for the Environment

Climate and environment blog

The forest contributes with a range of ecosystem services and helps us reach the goal of limited climate impact.

In some places with a lot of forest, the forest grows and absorbs more greenhouse gases than it emits. Therefore, the forest is said to function as a carbon sink. In addition, the forest provides renewable raw materials that can replace fossil fuels and materials. In this way, the forest thus provides a further significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

In order for the forest to continue delivering goods, it is also important to adapt the forest to a changed climate that can involve both increased growth and increased risk of damage. Biological diversity, such as genetic variation in forest trees, can contribute to better adapted forest ecosystems.

Carbon dioxide is bound into the growing trees

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the forest’s volume of wood and the production of wood have almost doubled. This is largely due to improved forest management which has made the forest grow better and denser, as well as plant breeding which has improved the plant material. Each year less harvest is done than the forest grows.

Emissions and absorption of greenhouse gases in the forest

The growing forest absorbs carbon through photosynthesis. At the same time, the forest releases carbon through the breath of trees and ground. Carbon is also released when the trees are felled or die for other reasons and the biomass is decomposed or burned.

The soil is supplied with coal by decomposing dead tree and plant parts and storing it in the soil. At the same time, some coal disappears via the ground’s breathing and with rainwater into lakes and streams. In addition, carbon is stored in products from harvested trees for a shorter or longer period, depending on what the wood products are used for.

The forest has absorbed a large amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By contrast, for example, diked peatlands are often a source of greenhouse gases. In the longer term, carbon stocks in living trees and plants will be stabilized as it will not fit unlimitedly with living trees in a forest.

With sustainable forestry where continuous reforestation takes place and taking into account the soil’s coal supply and long-term production capacity, the forest can continue to be harvested again and again without any net loss of coal over a longer period of time. The protection and restoration of peatlands can contribute to a larger coal supply through reduced emissions.

The forest provides renewable raw materials

The forest trees can be used as raw material and replace materials such as concrete, steel and plastic that have a greater impact on the climate. Residues from harvested trees also play an important role by providing raw materials for bioenergy production that can replace fossil fuels.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of bioenergy are assumed to be zero and are reported where combustion takes place. When wood products replace other building materials, the climate benefit becomes twofold, as emission-intensive processes can be phased out while carbon is bonded into what is being built. For example, if the use of wood were to increase when multi-storey houses and bridges were built, it would reduce emissions from the manufacture of metal-reinforced concrete.

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