Researchers say that logging of unproductive northern forests may actually help mitigate the warming brought on by climate change.
The somewhat counterintuitive findings came out of a study done by Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
Researchers determined that it may be worthwhile to log selective forests in northern latitudes that are traditionally very low in timber productivity. Such logged areas become meadows which accumulate snow during the winter and contribute to the surface albedo effect, or potential cooling caused by the reflection of the sun’s energy.
The study’s findings run counter to current climate change mitigation projects that encourage reforestation to take up carbon dioxide. The study is also believed to be the first-ever to put an economic value on timber production and albedo for possible inclusion in a cap-and-trade or other greenhouse gas exchange market. In some circumstances, landowners could be paid to produce timber and maintain snow cover instead of conserving forests and storing carbon.
However, Dartmouth researchers point out that such increased timber harvesting should not be done at expense of biodiversity or other ecosystem services.
The findings were presented on Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
The research was conducted by the New Hampshire Experimental Program to Stimulate Cooperative Research and funded by the National Science Foundation.
(Editor’s note: Location of Dartmouth College corrected to New Hampshire.)