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Alternatives Journal, Environment, Ontario Politics

Ontario Forests Will Be Net Carbon Source Until 2040

Flickr image by jd_09

Ontario Forest in Spring. (Flickr image by jd_09)

Ontario’s Crown forests are expected to remain a net source of carbon emissions for the next three decades, according to the latest forestry report from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The latest State of Ontario’s Forests report released January 3 – the third issued by the government, this one covering the fiscal years 2004 to 2008 – found that Ontario’s Crown forests will remain a carbon source until at least 2040 largely because of deforestation and decomposition of deceased and aging trees.

After 2040, changes to forest structure will see them become carbon sinks until 2100.

Ontario’s parks and forest areas cover approximately 10 per cent of the province’s entire landmass, storing more than six billion tonnes of carbon as of 2010.

Average temperatures in the province have increased by 1.4°C since 1948. And while the report states that extreme weather instances between 2004 and 2008 were rare, increasing temperatures, “combined with increased extreme weather events forecast to occur as a result of climate change, are expected to affect the composition, structure, and function of Ontario’s ecosystems.”

The dangerous effects of a warming climate on Canadian forests have been seen nowhere more clearly than in western Canada where the mountain pine beetle outbreak spread to over 14 million hectares by 2008, killing roughly 50 per cent of British Columbia’s mature lodgepole pine. By 2015, that percentage is expected to grow to 70 per cent.

Capable of crossing mountain ranges and lacking its most potent nemesis – a thorough and extended cold spell during winter months – the destructive insect has ravaged entire forests and expanded its palette from lodgepole to jack pine.

“If the mountain pine beetle reaches Ontario it could have major implications on Ontario’s forests,” the report warns.

Deforestation is another indicator of forest carbon emissions. Between 2001 and 2007, deforestation in southern Ontario alone denuded 8,856 hectares, outstripping afforestation efforts that added only 5,422 hectares over an eight year period from 2001 to 2009.

Read the full story at Alternatives Journal.

About awreeves

Editor-in-chief at Alternatives Journal. Author of 'Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian carp Crisis'.


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