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Bioenergy: wild fire defence

Updated: Jan 10, 2019

Thank you to Matt Howard for this photograph.
Wildfires are a growing risk, but they can be prevented by better forest management, paid for by wood product markets.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but human management of forests can boost their ability to store carbon and protect them from wildfires.

The recent fires in California were one part of a growing trend in which changing precipitation patterns and rising temperatures raise the risk of fires for forests around the world.

Two recent articles highlighted the vital role of better forest management systems and how they can improve carbon storage whilst minimising risks of infestation, disease and wildfire.

Here's Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation, who points out that forest owners want to manage their land more effectively, but they don't have the money and resource to do so. That results in more dead wood on the forest floor, which provides the fuel for fires to get out of hand very quickly.

And here's Seth Ginther of the United States Industrial Pellet Association, explaining that bioenergy can take the waste wood of diseased, infested or residue wood and use it to replace fossil fuels in the energy system. That is, bioenergy can reduce wildfire risk by taking fuel off the forest floor and use it for electricity instead. Win-win.

So, next time someone says we should just leave forests alone, tell them that that would also leave them defenceless.

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