Jan 04 2018

FSC Certification means Climate Smart Forestry

By KC Eisenberg

There are many strong reasons to support FSC forestry and buy wood products that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Our friends at Ecotrust recently completed a study that found yet another great reason: FSC certified forests can store more carbon while producing more timber than the current industrial norm. 

The study, called Climate Smart Forestry in the Pacific Northwest, simulated four scenarios of Douglas fir forest management over 100 years using the Forest Vegetation Simulator growth-and-yield model. Forests managed according to the guidelines of the Forest Stewarship Council (FSC) were looked at, as were forests managed according to the requirements of the Oregon and Washington Forests Practices Acts (FPA). The study simulated conditions in a selection of forested properties across the Pacific Northwest region, 22 of which were FSC Certified and 45 additional, non-certified properties that were randomly selected, to provide a large sample for comparing the outcomes. 

The study found that the FSC Certified properties always stored more carbon than the non-certified properties. FSC usually stored 25 to 60% more carbon than properties managed according to the rules of the FPS, with some offering as much as 80% more carbon storage.

Additionally, the longer rotations that are typical for FSC properties often produced more timber than the FPA property yields. Long FSC rotations were competitive with, and often had higher yields than, the short-rotation FPA scenarios, particularly on the properties studied in Washington.

Ecotrust defines Climate Smart Forestry as having longer rotations; protecting water quality and aquatic habitats with effective buffers around streams and wetlands; tightly restricting the use of chemicals and prohitibiting specific, particularly hazardous chemicals; and safeguarding High Conservation Value forests, i.e., old growth. 

By adopting policies and incentives that reward Climate Smart Forestry, states could offer a win-win for Pacific Northwest forests: Increased carbon storage combined with a high timber output.