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Home > Innovation and New Technology > Issues > Carbon in the Boreal Forest

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Carbon in the Boreal Forest 

Listen to the Eco-FilesIt's a fact that humans inhale oxygen and emit carbon dioxide. Trees, on the other hand do just the opposite, inhaling carbon dioxide and release oxygen. It's part of the natural process that keeps the global ecosystem in balance. Along with the talks of global warming, some have begun about the amount of carbon dioxide held in the world's boreal forest. The boreal forest is not restricted to Alberta, but extends to many countries in the world. However, Canada is the world's biggest exporter of lumber products and thus some might say has the largest stake in the carbon and climate change talks. 

So, what does carbon in the boreal forest have to do with global warming? Well, the atmosphere holds a lot of carbon dioxide, which is the biggest greenhouse gas and the one that most causes global warming. So the smaller the amount of carbon dioxide there is in the atmosphere, the better for the world's climate. Forests suck up this greenhouse gas and use it for fuel. It stands to reason that the more forests there are in the world, the less carbon dioxide there will be. But it's not just trees that suck up carbon dioxide. It's also things like dead plant matter on the forest floor, and even the soil that play a major role in absorbing that carbon dioxide. 

CutblocksSome people are saying that the amount of carbon dioxide stored in Alberta's forests will go up 20 percent in the next few years if nothing is done to change current forest management practices. That means 20 percent more carbon dioxide floating around in the air, which is bad news for global warming trends. One possible solution includes increasing "acceptable" land-use practices, such as forestry. Agriculture, while an important industry for this province, does not help increase carbon dioxide levels in the forest. Some people have suggested growing trees on private woodlots where agriculture was formerly practiced.

Even forestry companies realize that something needs to be done to keep carbon dioxide levels high in Alberta's forests. Weyerhaeuser, a large forestry company, is currently developing alternative, carbon-based products that will absorb some of the carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere. Listen to the accompanying EcoFile to learn more about this important debate on carbon in the Boreal forest.

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