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Letters to the Editor Policy

Letters to the Editor Policy
 

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Deforestation has consequences

I was surprised to read in last week’s paper a front- page article about the Parks and Rec Commission seeking funding to the sum of $50,000 to determine whether or not the land behind the track could be used for other recreation activities. I was even more surprised to see an opinion article in the same paper opposing similar endeavors on the other side of town, indicating that this is a pattern, not an isolated incident. I echo the question, “What has happened?”

I have two arguments opposing this project to deforest the land behind the track. The first is simple and personal, the second is more complex and scientific. First, I am a lifelong citizen of Harvard, and I have grown up using those very woods for recreation. Deforesting here is an affront to all of the citizens of Harvard who also enjoy this forest ecosystem for recreation.

Please allow me to define some terms within the scope of the forest carbon cycle. Carbon pool refers to the part of the forest that stores carbon. The forest carbon pool consists of “live above ground,” such as trees, shrubs, and other plants; “live below ground,” including roots; “soil organic,” which is organic material in the soil, such as decayed biomass; and “dead above ground,” including standing dead trees and downed logs. The last component of the forest cycle is litter, such as leaves and small branches.

In a pamphlet published by UMass Amherst and the University of Vermont in 2019, the authors estimate the carbon pool breakdown of an acre of average oak-pine forest to contain the following: Live above ground: 32 metric tons of carbon. Live below ground: 7 tons. Soil organic: 27 tons. Deadwood: 4 tons. Litter: 12 tons.

Deforesting only 1 acre would cause the 32 tons living above ground to become immediately lost. The 7 tons living below ground would soon die and transition into soil organic, along with the 16 tons from deadwood and litter. Without protection from the forest canopy, the soil will steadily warm, causing the soil to decompose faster, gradually exhaling all 50 tons of this carbon to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. This is what happened to most of the European continent, and why their soil is so poor in quality.

Please protect the forest.

Erik Johnson
Old Mill Road

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