Author: Juan Carlos Flores López, Ph.D
Associate Professor and Head of the Forestry Unit
Environment and Development Department
The new climate conditions, manifested in rain and temperature variations, are mainly due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These gases have increased the atmospheric temperature and consequently modified climate patterns worldwide. In tropical regions, this is manifested in extreme patterns during the beginning and end of dry and rainy seasons. Therefore, one experiences drier time periods and heavier as well as lasting rains.
One of the gases that cause this global warming is carbon dioxide (CO2). This gas is produced mainly by the burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel, as well as by the burning of organic matter. In tropical countries, forest fires are one of the main causes of CO2 emissions. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), emissions due to changes in forest cover or deforestation can be up to 40% of CO2 emissions in these countries.
Trees, during their growth, absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and release oxygen (O2). According to studies, 1 m3 of tree growth means the capture of 0.7 ton of CO2. This depends on several factors, the density of the wood is one of the main ones. The quantification of CO2 that a forest can fix during growth and the amount it can store as wood is one of the main fields of study in forest science, mainly in the tropical regions.
ZAMORANO, through the Department of Environment and Development, has conducted different studies to estimate the amount of carbon stored in the forest on campus. In 2015, the student Diego Gudiel determined the first equation to calculate the aerial biomass in the Pinus oocarpa forests in the Yeguare Valley. In 2016, this equation was complemented by the student Aurisbel Avila applying this equation to underground biomass (roots).
According to these studies, the Santa Inés forest, which has an area of 852 ha, stores 41.5 thousand tons of CO2. As an environmental contribution from an oxygen-generating country, this carbon dioxide capture value means that ZAMORANO would receive around US $ 900,000.00 according to the price of a ton of CO2 in 2016. However, it is important to note that, according to the international conventions on climate change, what is compensated is the carbon captured, so in this case it is important to estimate the growth of the forest and determine how much carbon is being stored.
The growth of the Santa Inés forest has been estimated through the field practices of the third year students of ZAMORANO in the Forest Management module, which is under the responsibility of the Environment and Development Department. According to these estimates, the forest grows an average of 3 m3 / ha / year, which represents US $ 29,000.00 in the 852 ha of carbon forest captured at 2016 prices.
It is important to note that the previous amounts do not include the monitoring and verification costs implied by these compensation mechanisms. In addition, it also does not include costs related to forest fire protection, invasions or any activity that encourages the change in coverage. If this possibility of commercialization of CO2 is added to the value of the wood that can be obtained from the forest under responsible forest management, revenues are substantially modified. Under normal market conditions, without considering the episode of the weevil attack in Honduras, the value of the wood would be US $ 130,000.00 annually.
Because wood is the best way to store CO2 for a long time, the conservation and protection of forests in addition to the consumption of wood products as opposed to plastic or metal products become measures that fundamentally contribute to the capture of atmospheric carbon.