With global climate change threatening the ecological underpinnings of the Maine Woods, the case for protection and restoration as a means to mitigate the impacts of global warming has never been greater. The stark reality is that unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, the forests of Maine will likely be changed beyond recognition in the next hundred years. It is already possible to see signs in the forest of declining health attributable to climate change. FEN is currently in the process of launching a new initiative, The Climate Change and Forest Restoration Campaign, to promote the Maine Woods as a crucial defense mechanism against global warming.
Stephen Wofsy, an atmospheric chemist at Harvard has documented that temperate forests continue to increase carbon uptake with age. The average age of the 17.6 million forested acres in Maine is about 58 years - on the 10.2 million acres of industrial lands, which comprise the North Woods, the age is less than 40 years. On average, Maine forests uptake about 0.3 tons of carbon per hectare per year. Current harvest practices are resulting in a younger forest and reduced stocking levels, both of which reduce the carbon sequestration potential - or simply put, the ability of forests to store and withdraw carbon from the atmosphere. Harvest cycles in Maine average 30 years on industrial lands. Research has documented that for many years after a clearcut, a re-sprouting forest emits more CO2 than it absorbs. This is a result of soil microbes becoming more active due to the greater abundance of dead organic matter in the form of tree roots and slash.
I believe there is an excellent opportunity to promote the Maine Woods as a critical component of a northeastern carbon reduction plan. This plan will promote the re-growing of mature forests and the re-establishment of permanent wildlands. Thomas Peterson, founder of the Center for Climate Strategies at Penn State University, using his Forestry Carbon Calculator, has determined that the two most effective ways of maximizing carbon storage in Maine forests are 1) increasing stocking levels and 2) expanding forest protection. Maine forests could easily double or triple their annual carbon uptake with the implementation of longer growing rotations and the setting aside of large wilderness reserves. Enhancing carbon sequestration not only reduces atmospheric CO2, but it has the added benefits of improving land use practices, enhancing wildlife habitats, increasing water and air filtration, and generally, just improving overall forest health.
FEN has had a long-standing interest in the connection between climate change and forest restoration. The Climate Change and Forest Restoration Campaign will be a proactive effort. It will focus on educating and activating the public. It will reach out and build a coalition of support. FEN will meet with all stakeholders and present state and federal officials with compelling reasons why support for forest restoration in the face of certain climate change is critical. FEN is proposing a groundbreaking campaign. It is going to take a major amount of planning and development. However, the time for a recharged effort, using the carbon card , in support of forest restoration is now.
Global climate change threatens the ecological underpinnings of the Maine Woods. FENs mission to protect, restore, and conserve demands that FEN focus its energy and resources on alleviating the greatest threat ever to the Maine Woods - global warming. As part of the solution to this crisis, it is critical a strong public policy is implemented that promotes protection, restoration, and conservation. The launching of The Climate Change and Forest Restoration Campaign is long overdue. I hope FEN can count on your help and participation.