Which one is better: Trees standing tall as old growth forest or the ones already transformed to paper that we can use to express our opinions in a protest? Of course the ones standing tall are worth million if not billion times than the processed ones. But why is that?
There are many ways we can answer that question, and we are sure that most of you already have your own version of answers. But for those who still wonder how trees worth more standing tall than cut down can and processed, we have the answers for that.
However, before talking about it too far, we should have also realized that not everyone would appreciate this post. The reason is because cut down trees, even though would worth less, but it creates money easier.
Wait, so the worth is not all about money? Then how can trees standing tall worth more? Is there any problem with that? Here in this article we will talk about it.
Old Growth Forest
Talking about trees standing tall, we should start with talking about old growth forest. The term ‘old growth forest’ is usually also understood as primary forest, virgin forest, late seral forest, primeval forest or first-growth forest.
The term actually means a forest which has attained long life standing tall without any noteworthy disturbance. Because of that, the forest would be able to demonstrate unique ecological features that can even be granted the title of climax community.
Old growth forests usually have complex and diverse structure of trees and wildlife, which naturally increases the biodiversity of the ecosystem. The structure should include multi-layered canopies with varying tree heights and diverse tree species.
Now, let us ask you a question. With such criteria to fulfill, do you think that there are only a few old growth forests in the world? Well, actually no. The fact is, more than one third of the world’s forests are old growth forests.
Wow, isn’t that a great number? Probably it is a yes. But the fact that there are only around 1.11 billion hectares of old growth forests left on earth means that there is only around 3.33 billion hectares left of forest on this planet. Remember, the earth’s surface is ‘only’ 12.2 hectares wide, and it includes water surfaces.
Old Growth Forest Contribution
So, what makes old growth forests are so special? Here are some explanations. First thing first, they have un-deniable cultural importance compared to newer plantations or newer forests, especially to the indigenous people who have taken care of it for generations. Newer forests just cannot compete at this aspect at all.
Second of all, old growth forests live on complex wood wide web that has been maintained for a long time. Newer forests are either still building this wood wide web or already have it, but still have not reached its full potentials.
Third, old growth forests excel at housing huge amount of biodiversity. For example, we all know that tropical forests are the most biodiverse habitats. But their biodiversity is comparable with old growth temperate forests. The boost came from endemic and unique species that cannot live anywhere else, even in newer plantation of the same trees.
Fourth aspect is about durability in surviving the changes in this climate change era. Old growth forests are more resilient and durable when faced against drought and wildfire compared to newer plantations. One of the reasons is because they have developed advanced water distribution system underground.
There are other aspects that can be included in the list, such as eco-tourism, science-related actions, and persistent carbon sequestering. All of those things are enough to explain why forests are worth more standing tall compared to cut down and processed, even though the cut down ones are replaced with newer trees of the same species.
Now, there is one thing that we need to point out regarding the excellence of old growth forests. Newest study found that old growth forests just don’t stop acting in carbon sequester despite having sequestered so much carbon in their whole life.
The reason why we need to point this out is because for long even researchers thought that after some period of time growing, forests will stop absorbing carbon from the air. It was thought that those ‘unproductive’ forests would only act as carbon storage without absorbing new carbon.
But newest study cancelled out that assumption saying the age of a forest doesn’t determine the forest’s ability to absorb carbon. Instead, the bigger the trees living in a forest, the more carbon dioxide they need to do daily photosynthesis.
A study conducted by 38 researchers discovered that 97% of trees from samples collected grow faster as they age. The reason for that is because older trees usually have more leaves to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“We find that in forests between 15 and 800 years of age, net ecosystem productivity (the net carbon balance of the forest including soils) is usually positive. Our results demonstrate that old-growth forests can continue to accumulate carbon, contrary to the long-standing view that they are carbon neutral,” as explained in the paper.
Reason to Protect
While the list we mentioned above showed how important old growth forests are, the newest findings from the study we talked about recently justified everything. We now have more reasons to protect the old forests than boosting on replantation after logging the old ones.
“Old-growth forests therefore serve as a global carbon dioxide sink, but they are not protected by international treaties, because it is generally thought that ageing forests cease to accumulate carbon,” the researchers warned.
Regarding whether or not trees are worth standing tall compared to being cut down, the researchers used the ‘climate change approach’. We should not forget that old growth forests store massive amount of carbon that we cannot re-release to the atmosphere.
“Old-growth forests accumulate carbon for centuries and contain large quantities of it. We expect, however, that much of this carbon, even soil carbon, will move back to the atmosphere if these forests are disturbed,” as stated in the paper.
So, now, do you understand why trees are worth more standing tall than cut down, even if they are restored with reforestation?