More about those Big Lungs

Since posting about the rain forests yesterday, I have had my attention drawn in another direction by two independent sources. As I already wrote in that article, everyone has a bias, now it is very important to locate what that might be and report it accurately.

I do believe I was correct in stating that in years past we were taught that the Amazon Forest was named the ‘lungs of the planet’. I do believe I am also correct in reporting that many organizations are claiming the deforestation taking place is dangerous for planet Earth.

What was brought to my attention was that land which is cleared of trees and made into farmland for growing crops, is also returning oxygen to the ‘cycle’ and absorbing carbon dioxide. Of course there is always the question of methane emissions from cattle to be considered, as methane is another greenhouse gas.

The South American Travel Experience Website who I quoted from in my previous article Big Lungs and Big Liars gave quite a few rational reasons why deforestation and subsequent land cultivation are a bad idea.

It is estimated that less than 10% rainforest land is suitable for conventional agriculture. Soon gets exhausted after 3 or 4 crops due to its poor-gradients condition and the lack of sustainable cultivation practices.  As a consequence, farmers move deeper into the rainforest in search of new, fresh land.

Amazon rainforest covers 1.2 billion acres – 200,000 of them are burned every day at a rate of at least one per second. Grazing land degrades fast due to the lack of gradients and overgrazing, which means new rainforest land needs to be obtained to satisfy their needs.

What is seems to be saying to me in plain English is that the soil quality of the forest floor is not that great, and once it has been grazed or cropped it soon becomes useless. This means the farmer has to look for healthier pasture to work, therefore more and more land is cleared…. It is a continuing problem. I read somewhere that the smaller farmers do not have the necessary funds to purchase needed fertilizers with which to replenish the soil and that is why after a couple of seasons, when the nutrient depleted soil stops producing bountiful amounts, they must find newer pastures to work. So burn more land and start over again.

The first person who contacted me today, after my earlier article, lives in the United States of America. He reminded me that the early settlers cut down forests to make way for farm land and that is how America was settled. He wrote:

We have HUGE FORESTS IN the USA and Canada as well as in Russia.  All plants take up CO2. The reason that they are clearing the forest is for farming which we did in this country when we settled it. Farming also contributes mightily to CO2 uptake as well as all the hay and grain to feed the cattle.

A Fair Point which I appreciated being reminded of! However it still leaves me with a question about soil quality etc. The Amazonian website claims the soil from the floor of the forest is of a very poor quality and will not sustain ongoing agriculture etc. My first contact today seems to be alluding to a great quality soil in the former, but now deforested farm and grazing lands of the USA.

The second article that seemed to be right in line with what I was writing about was found over at WUWT and was part of the ongoing conversation. I take the liberty here of including some of what was written by blogger Tim Ball:

The role of vegetation in altering air composition has been known for a long time. For example, it explains why the Blue Ridge Mountains are so named.

On a larger scale, knowledge of the role of forests in absorbing or releasing gases is still very limited, especially with regard to quantity. It is not long ago that it was determined the rain forests were a major source of methane.

We only started measuring the input and output of gases in the massive boreal forest a few years ago.

When the promoters of the Kyoto Protocol were trying to convince the US to sign on they asked what accommodation they could make. The request was for carbon credits based on replanting forests. It was rejected because they said they didn’t know how much CO2 was absorbed or released by forests.

I am sure my first commenter is correct in that land clearing in the USA to make way for commercial farming, has had great benefits by way of (a) feeding the planet and being (b) able to stockpile grain etc. As to exactly how much Oxygen the grain and grass lands return to the atmosphere, and how much Carbon Dioxide they absorb I have yet to discern. Is it as much as the great rain forests produce I wonder?

Dr. Tim Ball in his comments has reminded me that when the US was being courted to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol (which they did not sign) there still was no scientific proof of the amount of Carbon Dioxide absorbed or released by forests.

I thank Tim for this information and wonder if anything much has changed?

Again I wonder who one is supposed to believe. Yes everyone has a bias, and usually if you follow the dollar, or research and see who it is the particular article is written by or for you can determine that bias.

Before signing off, I want to reflect on the graph/image posted at the start of this blog. It shows in easy to follow columns which of the so-called bad green house gases are the most potent – as in global warming potential.

I hope you noticed that Carbon Dioxide was listed at the least worrisome by the IPCC? So can anyone tell me why it has been totally demonized? Rhetorical question I know – simply follow the dollar!

About JustMEinT Musings

I like writing, reading and expressing my opinions. I prefer natural health and healing to pharmaceutical drugs. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour.
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4 Responses to More about those Big Lungs

  1. Sandra Rainsford says:

    The biggest problem is erosion, once you mess with the leaf litter that keeps the moisture in you find that it is fly away silt type soil that washes away. The top soil is gone very quickly as it is in nearly every farming, croping area in the world. You can’t continue to take it out if you don’t put it back in. Turn a crop straight back in, plant a crop of peas and turn that back in, let the soil rest. It isn’t rocket science.

  2. Reblogged this on The GOLDEN RULE and commented:
    Some interesting contradictory factors are presented.

  3. Some interesting contradictory factors are presented.
    Without going into the science of plants/trees and their relative usefulness and importance, which would require research results which may or may not exist, in which case my comments could be assessed, my thoughts are as follows:

    Regarding the CO2 production aspects, I believe that one will find that a tree will produce a much greater amount of CO2 to O2 conversion than any agricultural venture using the same area of soil. For example, an established oak tree has acres (or hectares) of leaf area and is a full-time (relatively), ‘operator’.
    Regarding the need to destroy forests to create agricultural land area, this has been the case in South America and maybe a few other places, but Australia and North America were blessed with very large areas of grassland. Timber felling is more likely filling a need for timber as lumber or firewood.
    Regarding the fertility of soil, any soil will fail to continuously produce edible plant growth without either fertilizer, resting or rotational cropping. It would surprise me if rainforest soils able to grow giant, hundred(s) feet trees is incapable of efficient food growing if treated in the same manner as other soils.
    Regarding the loss of rainforest trees resulting in more CO2, therefore increased tree growth elsewhere: True, but did we need to cut down the trees in the first place, and is there ever a return to the original balance? (Rhetorical! because that is the past). The future loss of forests and the need to sustain food production should be looked at from a scientific viewpoint, its past time!

    The argument about methane production from rainforest decaying matter is valid, but has it been shown, even given that methane is a much more potent GHG, that the net gain of CO2 absorption is offset to a meaningful degree?

    Finally, does it really matter if we, nature and humans, adapt to a slightly higher atmospheric CO2 level which is better for the plants and may not matter all that much to humans.

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