When ice storms or the arrival of a destructive insect kills a lot of trees at once, it’s not obvious how to respond: Cut them down quickly or let nature take its slow, messy course? Dead trees are a valuable part of the ecosystem, providing homes for bugs, birds and beasts, but too many can slow forest regeneration and they’re also a fire hazard.
And what about emitting carbon? Is it better for climate change to cut them quickly or let them rot?
UNH looked at that latter question and found, as is often the case, that the answer is “it depends”. Cutting them down quickly emits more emissions in the short term of a decade or so unless you turn most of it into lumber, but allows quicker regrowth and so reduces emission in the long term. So which is better? It depends.
More details are here.
From the article.
““From a policymaking perspective, that period of 10 to 20 years where emissions are greater because of salvage harvesting is an important consideration. Climate scientists warn that we need to address near-term emissions, so this outcome is potentially at odds with that objective. ”
Given that the worldwide lockdowns had no discernible effect on CO2 levels, it’s hard to see what effect not removing dead tress would have.