Study: The Dark Side of Forest Carbon Sequestration


[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"439","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"317","style":"width: 275px; height: 231px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;","width":"378"}}]]Science has taught us that humans and trees have a symbiotic relationship: humans and other living creatures exhale carbon dioxide, which trees absorb to produce oxygen, which we then breathe. It’s a perfect circle that maintains life on Earth as we know it. But a recent study out of Rhode Island’s Miskatonic University has identified an unsettling aspect of this natural process.

The study, Rapid Uptake of Carbon Dioxide by Northeastern Spruce-Fir Forests, by Dr. Howard Philips et. al., posits that trees aren’t simply sequestering carbon dioxide voluntarily exhaled by humans, mammals, and other creatures, but are generating a vacuum effect that virtually sucks CO2 from our lungs before we’re done breathing it. Medically speaking, the process accelerates breathing rates, causing shallow breathing, reducing oxygenation of the brain, blood, tissues, and organs. 

Study author Phillips downplays the health implications, saying the effect is unlikely to cause harm to healthy adults, but children, the elderly, and those suffering from lung disease, such as asthma and COPD, may be at a slightly elevated risk.

Dr. Clark Smith, phrenologist at East Virginia Medical Institute, is concerned about the findings, but hopeful that the research may lead to a reduction in some forms of lung disease. “Without jumping to conclusions,” said Dr. Smith, “this may be the missing piece of the puzzle in regards to curing millions of certain chronic pulmonary disorders.”

Cutler Linden, president of Healthy Forests Together, a collaborative group representing timber, biomass, and environmental interests in the Pacific Northwest, lauds the study. “For years, we’ve been cautioning the public that wild forests are a threat to human health and the natural world through wildfire, sopping up of limited water supplies, and falling trees,” said Linden, a biomass facility operator for Seneca Sawmill, based in Lane County, Oregon. “Now science is finally catching up to common sense, reinforcing our need to convert forests into carefully managed, genetically-modified, monocrop tree farms.”

Federal and state governments are already acting on the study by planning large logging projects. The White River National Forest in Colorado has announced plans to clearcut hundreds of thousands of acres of lodgepole pine that have experienced beetle infestations, while the Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources and the Vermont Department of Conservation plan to log state forests to fuel a dozen proposed biomass heating facilities, incentivized by recent legislation.