There is a widespread and misguided belief that logging or clearing mature forests and replacing them with fast-growing younger trees will benefit the climate by sequestering atmospheric CO2. While younger trees grow and sequester carbon quickly, the fate of stored carbon when mature forests are logged must also be considered. When a forest is logged, some of its carbon may be stored for years or decades in wood products. But large quantities of CO2 are also released to the atmosphere - immediately through the disturbance of forest soils, and over time through the decomposition of leaves, branches, and other detritus of timber production. One study found that even when storage of carbon in timber products is considered, the conversion of 5 million hectares of mature forest to plantations in the Pacific Northwest over the last 100 years resulted in a net increase of over 1.5 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere.20
20. Harmon, M.E., W.K. Ferrell and J.K. Franklin. 1990. Effects on carbon storage of conversion of old-growth forests to young forests. Science 247: 699-702.
Union of Concerned Scientists. Recognizing Forests' Role in Climate Change