Saturday, December 22, 2007

Treehugging

Done! Done with Christmas shopping!

My husband just told me he bought a flashlight for my younger brother. Totally ingenious, it has a mode with a red warning signal and can be tied around the head. I'm not entirely sure what my brother is supposed to do with that. But the batteries are allegedly durable for ten years, so maybe something springs into mind.

Either way, I read today this article in the Globe and Mail:

"The hush-hush regreening of Europe"

According to which "[Europe's] forest cover has expanded by almost 10 per cent since 1990, and a much larger greening seems to be under way, reversing centuries of deforestation. The greatest share of this growth is a result of deliberate policies designed to turn farmland into woodland."

Having grown up seeing the forests in my neighborhood shrink every year, it made me very happy reading this. I welcome the trend to support afforestation of farmland not only because I like trees (yeah sure, I talk to my plants), but because the financial support for farmers whose products are not consumed either way and just rot away is nothing but a waste of resources.

That further caused me to look up the websites of the European Environment Agency where one finds a lot of data and statistics, and websites of the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE), more data and statistics, in my impression trends are overall good. Below you see Fig. 46 from their 2007 Report on the State of Europe's Forests (beware, it's more than 16 MB worth of plots and diagrams). It shows the share of protected area of the forest by country:

[Share of protected area of the total forest and other wooded land area for biodiversity (MCPFE Classes 1.1–1.3) and for landscape (MCPFE Class 2) (%), by country in the MCPFE region, 2005, classified according to the share of forest protected for biodiversity, Source: MCPFE. The * means only data for forest available. Click to enlarge]

I admit on deliberately chosing a figure where Germany looks good. And the pie below shows the share of marketed forest products other than wood... seasons greetings!


[Marketed non-wood forest products from forest and other wooded land in Europe. Share of total value in countries (based on available data). Click to enlarge.]


This post is not part of our 2007 advent calendar A Plottl A Day.

1 comment:

CarlBrannen said...

In east Texas where my family is from, the conversion of farm or ranch land to forest has been going on for years. I've planted many thousands of trees on land we had previously used as pasture. It is not as hard work as it sounds.

As with any such thing, the conversion is driven by economic motives; silviculture requires less labor than cattle ranching. This is true in east Texas which is sufficiently wet that hay must be harvested before it rots on the ground. So cattle ranching is moving to drier parts of the US and off shore.

One of the odd ecological thoughts that came to me during the time one has while using a "dibble" to plant trees is that the forest and pasture are both stable ecological entities, and man has to do work in order to convert one to the other. My ancestors converted the land to farmland and/or pasture many years ago.

Making forest into farmland is probably the hardest as you have to remove stumps. With pasture, you can leave them in, so the usual transition is forest to pasture to farm. My grandfather was very proud of a field that had "the best coastal bermuda in the county". Now we're considering converting it back to forest.

However, the price of grain is going very high in the US, partly due to the falling dollar (food being an important export of the US), and partly due to a resurgence in ethanol (in which industry I am employed) and that is going to cause a lot of the US's farmers to begin converting forest back to crop. You will see the same thing in Germany, especially as they are now heavily subsidizing oil crops. The rumor I hear is that the barley crop is going to be insufficent for the beer industry.

When you see this happening, don't feel too bad, it is the only way that global warming from oil burning can be brought under control while still leaving enough of an economy in the world to pay for physics.