Post Carbon

Cool rainforests store more carbon than tropical rain forests, book says

Monday, November 22, 2010; 5:54 PM

'The world's forgotten rain forests'

Cool rain forests store more carbon per acre than tropical rainforests, according to a new book that synthesizes the work of 30 international scientists, a finding that could shift the way policymakers approach climate policy.

"Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World: Ecology and Conservation" documents that in 2007 the 250 million acres of temperate and northern forests stored 196 gigatons of carbon - the equivalent of six times the amount of carbon dioxide humans emit each year by burning fossil fuels.

With the world's climate negotiators poised to meet in United Nations-sponsored talks in Cancun at the end of the month, the book's editor, Dominick DellaSala, said policymakers need to focus on "the world's forgotten rain forests."

Tropical rain forests get between 60 and 160 inches of rain a year; temperate and boreal forests receive between 40 and 100 inches of rain annually but stay much cooler, with average annual temperatures between 43 and 52 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool rainforests are found in 10 regions of the world, including the Pacific Northwest; inland British Columbia and parts of Idaho and Montana; Eastern Russia and Southern Siberia; and Chile and Argentina.

"In some regions, like portions of Europe, nearly all rain forests are gone while others are headed in that direction if we don't act soon," said DellaSala, president of the Geos Institute. "Decades of logging have created a national ecological debt crisis that is being passed on to future generations from which we are borrowing on their biological inheritance."

These cooler rain forests store carbon in the massive trunks of their trees, as well as in their dense soil and foliage. Old-growth temperate forests, DellaSalla said, store more carbon per acre than any other kind of forest in the world.

- Juliet Eilperin

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