Since the start of the industrial revolution humans have increased atmospheric carbon percentage by 43%. As a result, the atmosphere stared absorbing more moisture than usual. This caused an increase global temperatures.
Global warming is accepted as the long-term heating of Earth’s atmosphere due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere.
Although the atmosphere itself is a “greenhouse gas”, it is not the air but the moisture percentage in the atmosphere that is responsible in retaining the heat from the sun.
This is necessary to keep the earth warm for life to exist. Earth balances the atmospheric moisture percentage daily through evaporation and rainfall. This process is referred to as the water cycle.
How the atmosphere works
The atmosphere is made up primarily of Nitrogen (N-78.09%), Oxygen (O-20.95%), Argon (Ar-0.93%). The balance of 0.03% is a mixture of other gases such as Carbon(C), Methane etc. This also includes artificial gasses.
The problem with the trace gasses is that even though they are trace elements, their impact on the atmospheric and water cycles is expanding. Earth is resilient, but the cycles are fragile.
As the air warms the space between the air molecules increases allowing for more water vapour to be absorbed. That is why we are experiencing an increase in the severity cyclonic storms as an example. Earth is trying to balance the imbalance.
Reducing our carbon footprint
In theory we need to stop producing carbon. This is not a simple practice as we all need to live daily with energy for warmth, transport, cooking of food etc. A good start would be to rethink our daily lives; how we can reduce our carbon footprint.
Vehicle trip planning for shortest routes, lift clubs, managing electricity consumption by being smart, maintaining a healthy garden (all plants take in CO2 daily, sequester the carbon atom and release the oxygen atoms back into the atmosphere i.e. photosynthesis), composting garden waste (pruning’s etc), recycling/repurposing refuse are a few methods, which, although we may consider small and a burden, contribute towards reducing our carbon footprint.
Trees absorb carbon though photosynthesis
As mentioned, green plants (chlorophyll in leaves) use sunlight to complete the process of photosynthesis. During daylight hours carbon dioxide (CO2) gets absorbed by the leaves, the carbon atom is retained, and the oxygen atoms released back into the atmosphere. The carbon atom now becomes the plants cell building block.
Trees alone or in forests capture and store different amounts of carbon at different speeds depending on the average age and specie of the trees. Therefore, the more trees per hectare the more carbon banking/pooling can take place.
Although there are many people against commercial afforested areas due to water usage by the trees or aesthetic value with the worlds growing population, we don’t have a choice. If we want to mitigate global warming, trees and the greening of open areas remain a viable method for carbon sequestration and with positive spin offs.
To get an estimate, according to an article published by forestlearning.edu.au, each cubic meter of wood grown holds just under a ton of carbon dioxide ‘concealed’ from the atmosphere. The total carbon emissions absorbed by forests around the world are around 2.5 billion tons.
When carbon dioxide is released.
When plants die, whether naturally or due to human intervention, the decaying plant biomass releases organic carbon back into the atmosphere. In nature, plant carbon fixing and release is in balance.
While the northern hemisphere is in autumn with a large change in plant fixed carbon being released due to leaf drop etc the southern hemisphere is waking up and fixing carbon.
Remember we said in “nature”. When we humans interfere by raking up autumn leaves into piles and burn it, we instantly release the organic carbon back into the atmosphere. However, if we transferred the dropped leaves to a compost pile not all the carbon returns to the atmosphere. Some of the carbon remains fixed in the soil.
With commercial forests, it is better to leave the unwanted/non-commercial brush material to decay naturally. This natural decay also helps to retain nutrients for the following young trees during reforestation. The planting of trees has a low carbon footprint as opposed to the development and production of atmospheric carbon scrubbers etc.
Trees and Forests as carbon banks.
As previously mentioned, tree carbon sequestration is dependent on species and age. when trees reach maturity, their annual increment slows down and the amount of carbon pooling declines. This does not mean that old-growth forest should be sacrificed to create more young forests.
If we do this, it could release pooled carbon back into the atmosphere, and a new forest would take decades to sequester as much carbon as currently stored in the old-growth forest.
The key is to use planning and management strategies that help capture additional carbon while minimizing losses of stored carbon on a viable basis through sustainable forest practices.
Therefore, we need to intensify the education of people on the benefits of working forests, whether natural or artificial, in a sustainable way.
Eucalyptus trees are champions when it comes to fixing carbon dioxide
According to Calix.global, Eucalyptus trees can store up to 15.7 tons of CO₂ per hectare, per year, after four years of growth. By the time these trees have been around for 14 years, that number increases by around 25.3 tons per Ha. Having said that, by planting one tree per year, you potentially offset your annual carbon emissions and subsequently begin to balance your carbon footprint.
Eucalyptus is fast-growing and are the most preferred species in plantations around the world. They are hybridized for growth and timber quality and are grown on more than 20 million ha of plantations worldwide.
These plantations rapidly sequestrate large quantities of carbon from the atmosphere. Over the years increased commercial forests have gradually become dominant carbon banks.
It is very important That we preserve our natural forests. This is where plantations play an important role. Fortunately, the commercial forestry industry in South Africa is committed to constantly practicing sustainable forest management to preserve our natural forests as well as our commercial forests.
Sabie Poles and the environment.
We, at Sabie Poles, take forest sustainability extremely seriously. We practice forest sustainability in every way possible, going the extra mile through production of maximum quality timber products using best operating practices. It is our core business.
Eucalyptus trees in particular can live decades/centuries, with most species able to survive up to 250 years in the wild. Harvesting trees from a forest is acceptable, as long as we utilize as many products as possible from the tree and keep wastage to a minimum.
Cutting down trees such as Eucalyptus which are exceptionally durable for poles and putting the poles through a treating process such as copper, chrome arsenate (CCA) we are able to keep the carbon sequestered by the trees locked up for 50 plus years.
For instance, we have a property 10mx20m i.e., 200m long boundary which we fence off using 75mmx 1,8m CCA treated poles. We space the poles 2m apart which means an amount of 100 poles minimum is required. With a volume per pole of 0.01m³x100poles we have a cubic meter of carbon locked up.
Imagine one million future property boundaries fenced using treated timber? Note that one cubic meter is nearly 1 metric ton of carbon. Should we have fenced the property with steel posts, our carbon footprint would be much greater due to iron ore having to be mined and turned into steel using fossil fuel generated electricity (South Africa).
With the building trade contributing 30% on average worldwide to the annual carbon footprint, it is not difficult to understand why using timber in houses and buildings as much as possible will greatly assist in offsetting global warming. Of all the main building materials, timber is the most environmentally friendly, having the lowest energy consumption and carbon footprint.
Benefits of timber:
- Does not release chemical vapour in the buildings.
- Safe to handle and touch
- Ages naturally
- does not break down into environmentally damaging materials.
We plant our own Eucalyptus trees
Sabie Poles has been active in the timber industry for 28 years. However, even before that, the owner was well acquainted with the timber industry. Therefore, Marina Daniel assessed all the points and realized that the positives outweighs the negatives by far.
As a result, she and her team at Sabie Poles made the decision to only plant a selected Eucalyptus species. They knew that this would yield the highest quality timber while still being environmentally friendly.
Factors that were taken into consideration include:
- Amount of water the specific specie needs from seedling to tree.
- The speed at which the tree grows plays a significant role in the quality of the end product.
- Amount of oxygen a specific specie produces per hectare.
- Where to plant the trees, specie to site matching.
- Distance from rivers and streams.
- Correct harvest time.
- Non transport in adverse weather; maintain maximum water quality and preserve roads.
- Correct CCA impregnation to produce optimum long-lasting products.
- Harvesting equipment not environmentally friendly have been replaced in favour of friendlier methods.
Sabie Poles has re-invested funds into the company with the addition of solar energy generation. It is commonly known that solar has large capital outlay. However, Sabie Poles management takes preserving the environment for future generations seriously. As stated, South Africa’s electrical energy is generated mainly through fossil burning i.e. coal.
While these are not all the factors that were considered, it is some of the most important factors. We studied combination of these factors to ensure that we work sustainably while producing high-quality timber products.
During the last 48 hours World Health Organization has announced its latest report on overall world air quality. More than 90% of the world’s population is exposed to unhealthy air. Trees and plants remain the most favoured atmosphere scrubbers.
It’s important to ensure that you buy from a trusted timber supplier.
At Sabie Poles, our accreditation exceeds the minimum requirements to be a CCA Treated Timber Manufacturer and Supplier. All our CCA Treated Products have the SABS and NRCS’ stamp of approval.
Furthermore, we have certification and membership with some of the top contributors in the CCA manufacturing and forestry bodies like SAWPA (South African Wood Preservers Association).