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Studies Foresee Dilemma Over Forest Carbon Storage

Source:  Copyright 2009, Associated Press
Date:  July 9, 2009
Byline:  Jeff Barnard
Original URL: Status ONLINE

Scientists conclude in two government-funded studies that forests in the Pacific Northwest have a huge potential to store more carbon to combat global warming, but not if they are heavily thinned to prevent wildfire.

That poses a dilemma to the U.S. Forest Service, which has historically focused on balancing timber production against maintaining fish and wildlife habitat, but is increasingly trying to thin out young trees and brush to control wildfires that regularly cost $1 billion a year.

The stakes are big.

Globally, forests can absorb up to 30 percent of the carbon released by burning fossil fuels.

But when they are clearcut for lumber and to clear farmland, or allowed to burn uncontrollably, they also release huge amounts of carbon, said Steve Running, professor of ecology at the University of Montana and a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's latest report on global warming.

"So forests ...

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