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Archive Environmental Progress News – November/December 2022

Fire season – fueled by Global Warming?

Have you noticed the increase in forest fires over the years? It is not your imagination, it is just another sign of the impact global warming is having on our environment.

Over the past 5 years fire seasons have begun earlier, lasted longer, with more intense heat. We are also seeing “a growing tendency for wildfires to appear where in the past they were rare: peatlands, permafrost regions and tropical rainforests. The burning of any of these biomes is particularly concerning because of massive amounts of carbon released contribute to climate change” according to experts. 

More than just a carbon sink

Our forests provide much more than just a carbon sink. Healthy forest ecosystems produce and conserve soil and stabilize stream flows and water runoff—preventing land degradation and desertification, and reducing the risks of natural disasters such as droughts, floods, and landslides.

Forests are vital to life on Earth. They purify the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, prevent erosion, and act as an important buffer against climate change.

Loss of forests

10,000 years ago forests covered 57% of our earth. By the 1900’s forest coverage had been reduced to 48%. Today, approximately 31% of our earth is covered by forests. In the past 100 years the world has lost as much forest as it had in the previous 9,000 years.

Rampant deforestation has reduced our forest lands to make way for agricultural use (15% crops, 31% for grazing land).

Overexploitation of land resources has lead to substantial changes in land quality, with an adverse environmental effect. Massive population pressures, rapid urbanization, rapid industrialization, and extensive agriculture have contributed to deforestation and the depletion of land, disrupting the ecological balance (Grunwald, 2013).

This leads us to another cycle. Abandoned mine lands, mine tailing disposal site, deforested areas, overgrazing land, and barren lands create wasteland. Poor land use practices result in loss of soil quality and land productivity. So back to the forest we go to clear cut for more land.

Forest management is critical

Efforts are underway to reduce deforestation and improve forest management. Some forest ecosystems benefit from natural forest fires. However, with hotter, drier weather caused by climate change and poor land management we are seeing more frequent, larger and higher-intensity wildfires.

If you live near a forest you have probably heard from Forest Management that it is important to keep the land clear around structures, and to use fire resistant building materials. While this may help humans if a wildfire breaks out in your neck of the woods, the forest is lost. Nearly three billion animals – mammals, reptiles, birds, and frogs – were killed or displaced by Australia’s devastating 2019-20 bushfires.

Better forest management is needed to prevent, or at least reduce the intensity of forest fires.

Is there a cure all solution to end forest fires in sight?

Of course not!

Globally, forests are highly diverse; as is their management, local traditions, cultural and spiritual expectations, average property sizes and support structures. This diversity means one size does not fit all when it comes to forest management.

But there is one management tool that can be applied, a solution that helps reduce the fuel in the forests, much like removing brush around your home to protect against wildfires. The added benefit of this solution is the reduction of carbon, an increase in soil health and productivity, and provides a smoke free cooking and heating source that does not require trees to be cut down.

And that solution is biochar!

Pacific Biochar paves the way

To address the problem of catastrophic wildfires in California Pacific Biochar has initiated a solution that is working.

Excess fuel loads in the forest are being actively managed by state and private organizations, and in that context the excess fuel loads are generally referred to as “forest biomass”. 

Forest biomass can be transformed into biochar then used to improve the long-term health of farmland soils in the valleys below.

This can provide a comprehensive forest management solution that elegantly works to improve water conservation and carbon drawdown at the same time.” 

Pacific Biochar “sells its biochar, unadulterated or enhanced, to farmers who realize numerous benefits from adding carbon to their soil, including improved water and nutrient conservation, increased microbial support and stable organic matter. This is a good thing because most agricultural soils have lost between 25% and 75% of their soil carbon in the past few decades. Pacific Biochar is already able to offer its products direct to farmers, who can realize long-term improvements to soil health and crop yield with biochar inputs. In one multi-year study, Pacific Biochar’s products increased pinot noir grape yield by an average of 1.2 tons per acre over two years of harvest, paying back the cost of biochar application in just the first year”.

Biochar vs Prescribed Burns

The biochar solution far exceeds the “prescribed burn” that is currently used by many forest management teams. Prescribed burns can get out of control and create a wildfire that they are trying to prevent.

Prescribed burns are also a waste of a resource that can help improve local agricultural soils. Collecting biomass from the forests removes the fuel that spurs forest fires out of control. It also eliminates the smoke from the “prescribed burning” practice, and creates carbon for sequestration. In undeveloped countries where wood is used as a cooking and heating fuel, biochar provides a smoke free alternative.

Anyone can make biochar

Turning forest biomass into biochar helps reduce fuel which lowers the chance of raging forest fires. It also provides the agricultural community the highest quality soil amendment to bring life back to soils.

Small holder farmers are also able to benefit from making and using biochar to improve their soils.

In fact anyone who has biomass can turn it into biochar. The process is cheap to set up and easy to accomplish. Watch our DIY videos about how make biochar from your own biomass.

Even in the cities there is an opportunity to make a positive environmental impact by embracing and using biochar. For more information read our “Can your town save the earth?”

Biochar is one of the best solutions to reversing global warming. It is the easiest, safest, and smartest way to bring down our C02 levels.

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