“Our analysis suggests that wildfire likelihood does not increase following most insect outbreaks,” said Garrett Meigs, lead author.
These results are consistent with other studies that have investigated the likelihood of fire across the West. For example, a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by University of Colorado scientists found that despite extensive outbreaks of mountain pine beetles in the Rockies and the Cascades, fires in recent years were no more likely to occur in beetle-killed forests than in forests not affected by the insects.
“Forests will continue to burn whether or not there was prior insect activity,” Meigs and his co-authors write, “and known drivers like fuel accumulation and vegetation stress likely will play a more important role in a warmer, potentially drier future.” The Ecosphere paper is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/ES15-00037.1. Funding support was provided by the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship Program and the USDA Forest Service.
British Columbia has over 55 million hectares of public forests, of which 22 million hectares are available for logging. Less than 1% is harvested each year. (IE less than 220,000Ha). The mountain pine beetle infestation has affected over 18.6 million hectares of Interior forests.
Traditionally, BC has been a carbon sink province, the forests and oceans absorb human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. For the past decade though, we have become a producer of carbon emissions. This excerpt is from a Sierra Club BC article (2015) on Carbon emissions.
"The analysis for 2003 to 2012 shows net B.C. forest emissions of 256 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Net emissions from provincial forests are the result of logging (after accounting for carbon stored in wood products), wild fires, slash-burning and the reduced carbon sequestration capacity of B.C.’s forests as a result of the Mountain Pine Beetle outbreak.
In contrast, from 1993 to 2002, B.C.’s forests were still a net carbon sink: During this period, B.C.’s forests absorbed the equivalent of 70 percent of the cumulative official emissions of the province (629 million tonnes of carbon dioxide)."
Meanwhile, the BC government and the timber companies want the public to believe that cutting down and using more timber is a good thing.
From the Wood First Initiative, BC Government: "Wood is organic, sustainable, natural, and renewable. Using wood can limit climate change due to the reduced energy required to create wood building products and through carbon storage in the wood itself."
In 2009, the BC government, prompted by advances in wood technology, adopted a Wood First Act, requiring that wood be considered in publicly-funded construction to promote a culture of using wood. The building code was also amended to permit higher/taller wood buildings.
Slash Burning, a Waste and a Danger
This article (CBC Jun 2016 Province Wide Slash Burning Sparks Controversy) states that slash burning is a "common forestry practice. Just last year, an estimated five million tons of it went up in flames across the province. The fires are a major contributor to B.C.'s greenhouse gas emissions. In 2012, slash burning accounted for 13% of the province's total greenhouse gas emissions, or eight megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to B.C.'s latest greenhouse gas inventory."
... on a tree-by-tree basis, ancient giants are much more effective at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than young trees. “We realize now the big, old trees are the ones pulling carbon most rapidly out of the atmosphere,” Stephenson said. “This maybe puts an exclamation point on the importance of maintaining big, old trees.”
Dawson said more research could reveal whether managing forests so they contain more old trees would help trap more carbon (making the forest a carbon sink).
“Foresters have always assumed you need to be managing for young age, because young trees grow faster than old trees, but they didn’t know trees keep growing,” Dawson told LiveScience. “If you want a forest to be a carbon sink, you may want to manage it to make sure you always have a lot of older trees in it.”