How much carbon does our lumber sequester?

Image of a the harvest of cut down trees.

Enlarge (credit:
US BLM
)

Carbon sequestration is generally thought of as locking carbon
out of the atmosphere semi-permanently by incorporating it into
rocks or forests that are then preserved. But there’s a large cache
of carbon in a form that’s not especially permanent: the wood we
use in our buildings and other structures. Some of that lumber has
been in place for hundreds of years, while other bits of wood are
used temporarily and then burnt or left to decay, which rapidly
releases their sequestered carbon back into the atmosphere.

So it shouldn’t surprise you that figuring out how much carbon
ends up sequestered through our use of wood products is not a
simple task. Undaunted, Craig Johnston and Volker Radeloff of the
University of Wisconsin, Madison, have decided to tackle
it
. By viewing that carbon as a pool that’s being drained and
filled at the same time, they find that the total sequestered
carbon is tiny—and subject to rapid changes based on political
and economic factors.

Into the woods

The secret to tracking this pile of carbon is to recognize that
we’re never going to have a full inventory of lumber that was put
in place a century or more ago. But that lumber is going to be an
ever-shrinking portion of the material that was put in place more
recently. Thus, if we can track the production of lumber (and other
wood products) over the decades for which we have good data (1960
and beyond), then we have a decent sense of the total inputs to
this sequestered carbon.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
How much carbon does our lumber sequester?