Responding to Climate Change
Actively growing, healthy forests absorb carbon dioxide and convert it to stored carbon in the tree. Natural Resources Canada says that at a global scale, forests help maintain the Earth’s carbon balance. In the last four decades, forests have moderated climate change by absorbing one quarter of the carbon emitted by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and changing land uses.
Models for calculating a forest carbon budget are allowing forest professionals to determine when a specific forest is expected to be a net carbon source or sink over the period normally used for wood-supply forecasts.
Our carbon strategy is to maintain some old growth on the land base for carbon storage, reforest harvested areas promptly for carbon uptake, and reduce conversion by minimizing permanent access roads. We continue to monitor developments in carbon sequestration modelling both at the provincial and regional level, and use this in our management planning.
Warmer, drier summers have increased the risk of drought, and along with that comes greater susceptibility to insects like bark beetles and more frequent and intense wildfires. We prioritize the harvest of impacted forests, and promptly reforest these areas so they can become carbon sinks once again.
We are increasing the species diversity on the lands we manage so we can buffer the negative impacts of climate change and make forests more resilient, and we are increasing the carbon storage capacity of forest ecosystems through activities such as fertilization and increased planting densities.
Canfor is involved in a number of collaborative industry actions that mitigate the impact of climate change and increase the amount of carbon stored in the forest. For example, we are part of the Forest Products Association of Canada’s "30 By 30" Climate Change Challenge, which will support the Canadian government’s objectives in achieving its CO2 emissions reduction target. And we contributed to the forest sector's feedback to BC government’s climate leadership team recommendations, which offered advice on ways to help the province achieve its carbon goals through green biomass energy, forest management practices, transportation, and increased use of wood products in construction.
Two of the boreal forest projects we are currently involved in through the new Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement framework are related to climate change. We are helping to develop a hydrological model that incorporates predicted impacts of climate change on stream flow, and are investigating seed transfer from other locations to our Fort St. John area to select seed that can better survive predicted impacts of climate change.
Changes in temperature and precipitation affect plant productivity and forest health, and the rate of climate change will likely exceed the ability of forests to effectively respond and adapt. Forest management activities that determine the composition of our future forest will play a significant role in determining the impact of climate change. Our silviculture staff are working with government and researchers to reforest with tree species and seed that are genetically and ecologically suited to the new climate through assisted migration.
The British Columbia government and Forest Genetics Council initiated the Climate-Based Seed Transfer project to promote healthy, resilient and productive forests. We have participated in its development and implementation, and are currently analysing the tool to ensure suitable seed that can adapt to a changing climate will be available for our operating areas.
To make up for the fact that winters are warmer and shorter, we are employing measures to make the best use of our traditional winter hauling season. When we do build permanent roads, we will make them more durable so they can be used year-round, with a firmer subgrade and better ditching to keep the surface drier and more stable, and reducing the number of temporary snow/ice roads
Near Houston in northern British Columbia, one of our log purchase supervisors worked with a local contractor to apply sawdust to a winter road so it remained frozen and could be used longer despite warmer weather. Since hauling in winter when roads are frozen is more cost effective, this has proven to be a simple, cost-effective way to extend the winter hauling season.
Sawdust applied to a winter road near Houston, BC, was a simple, cost-effective way to extend the winter hauling season.
We are transporting logs to permanent satellite log storage yards and temporary storage areas during optimal hauling times so they can be delivered more steadily to our mills throughout the year, and are less exposed to adverse weather and road conditions.
We are increasing our deployment of larger nine-axle truck configurations to enable longer haul distances, reduce fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions, improve safety, address the issue of driver shortages, and lower pavement impacts. The British Columbia government has approved the use of the larger trucks on designated provincial highways, and 10-axle chip vans are currently being tested.
Products or processes are carbon neutral if they do not add incremental carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Forest biomass used in pulp or wood production is generally considered carbon neutral because it absorbs carbon dioxide by photosynthesis while the tree is growing, and when it decomposes or is burned – either directly or after conversion to a biofuel such as black liquor – it releases the carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere where it re-enters the natural biogenic cycle.
In addition to managing for forest productivity and building on recent significant advances in the genetic variation of trees and their distribution in a particular environment, we are working with tree seed orchards to screen for and incorporate pest resistance and tolerance into our breeding programs to reduce forest health impacts.
Where climate change induced impacts result in lower levels of harvest, we are continually exploring ways to fully utilize the remaining available fibre. This includes converting more of the woody debris left on site after harvesting into wood products and bioenergy, which has the added benefit of reducing the fire hazard created with controlled burns of these debris piles.
In Alberta, we are participating in climate change adaptation projects through Tree Improvement Alberta, including the Tree Species Adaptation Risk Management Project that identified gaps in knowledge and expanded the provenance test site to include drier and high elevation sites.