Canada’s Forests Now Give Off More CO2 Than They Suck Up

In a recent series of studies, scientists determined that Canada’s vast forests are so stressed from damage caused by global warming, insect infestations and persistent fires that they now pump out more carbon dioxide than they take in.

Canada's 1.2 million square miles of forests make up more than 7 percent of Earth's total forest lands and have been dubbed the "lungs of the planet" because they suck in vast quantities of carbon dioxide, cleansing the atmosphere of some of the planet’s harmful emissions.

However, rising temperatures are slowly drying out forests, leaving trees more susceptible to wildfires, which release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, Canadian officials say. See NWF’s report Increased Risk of Catastrophic Wildfires: Global Warming’s Wake-Up Call for the Western United States to learn more about the United States’ forest vulnerability.

Global warming also accelerates the spread of deadly pine beetle infestations, which have devastated thousands of square miles of Canadian forest lands. Milder winters have tampered with the planet’s natural balance system, and the beetles aren’t guaranteed to held in check by the cold anymore.

Published: January 14, 2009