Revealed: Trees planted to help achieve net zero are adding to Scotland’s carbon emissions

Sitka spruce forestry in Scotland

Another avoidable green fiasco in the name of climate obsession.
– – –
Millions of pounds are being spent carpeting thousands of acres of land with conifers on the basis they will lock up CO2 from the atmosphere.

But a new report shows that many of the forests springing up around the country likely add to the risk of climate change, says the Sunday Post.

Vast tracts of peaty soil are being dug up and drained in order to plant trees, unleashing a torrent of stored carbon [dioxide] into the environment.

The paper – published in the ­journal Land Use Policy – states: “We have been planting the wrong type of forests, in the wrong place, and using the wrong techniques. The industry promotes conifer forests as carbon positive; yet many plantations are emitting carbon.”

The author, Castle Douglas-based silviculture ­consultant Mary-Ann Smyt, warns: “Most of Scotland’s forestry has been (and is still being) planted on organic, peaty soils. The problem is acute in south-west Scotland, where afforested headwaters contain high levels of organic carbon and lethal spikes of acidity.

“If we want woodlands to lock up carbon for centuries, we need to move away from draining and disturbing peaty soils to suit plantations.”

The John Muir Trust conservation charity backed the research’s findings. Senior policy officer Rosie Simpson said: “We’re not confident about the long-term carbon savings of commercial plantations on peatlands.

“In the 1980s, we saw ­plantations in the Flow Country (in Caithness and Sutherland) driven by tax incentives. They are now widely acknowledged as having been ­environmentally destructive and are being converted back to peatland habitats.

“Our concern now is that we might be repeating past mistakes – except this time the driver is carbon-offsetting rather than tax-saving.”
. . .
The latest report highlights research from last year that showed trees grown in 30cm of peat would be unlikely to recoup the emissions created. Meanwhile, trees grown in 20cm of peat might take 15 years to break even.

And the report says the rules neither prevent further damage to existing sites caused by restocking nor properly account for emissions from ditches.

It concludes: “The net effect of plantations on peaty soils is that many forests are emitting more greenhouse gases than they sequester; they are not carbon-beneficial.

“This paper asks that investors and policy-makers recognise the damage being done…and suggests that the incentives driving these changes are corrected in order to favour a better kind of forest.”

The Scottish Conservatives called for a review of subsidies.

Shadow Net Zero Secretary Liam Kerr said: “The Scottish Government routinely attempts to force through so-called environmental measures without listening to the experts, from the shambolic Deposit Return Scheme to controversial fishing bans. We cannot afford tree-planting to become another failed green objective.”

Last year, an Aberdeen University study found that building wind turbines on peatland had released 4.9 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It will take some windfarms more than a decade of producing electricity to make good on the damage they have caused.

Full article here.

via Tallbloke’s Talkshop

May 2, 2023 at 01:54PM

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