Alder As A Carbon Store

History of Alder

 Red Alder is a pioneer species that establishes rapidly in openings created by forest disturbance; it commonly invades newly bared soils after landslides, logging, or fire. Red Alder can also maintain or improve soils via rapid input of organic matter and nitrogen.

Historical inventories indicate that the abundance of red Alder has increased about 20-fold since the 1920s despite it growing from being a species that was pushed aside, poisoned, and otherwise ignored until the 1970s.  Now that it is a preferred, viable, commercial manufactured species, it is providing quality lumber around the world while continuing to expand in total volume available for harvest.  The current inventory of about 7.4 billion cubic feet of Red Alder comprises 60 percent of the total hardwood volume in the Pacific Northwest. The most significant volume occurs in the Puget Sound and Northwest Oregon subregions. A significant portion of the Red Alder resource is not available for harvest; forest practices rules constrain timber management in riparian areas where Red Alder is most abundant.  Cascade works closely with federal, state, and area representatives to protect these riparian areas when we are harvesting Alder for our sawmills.

On good sites, height growth in Alder may exceed 6 ft/year for the first five years, and trees may attain heights of 60 to 80 ft in 20 years. Mean annual production rates in young stands have been estimated at 6.8 dry tons per acre. The following Alder facts are important – Fast growing trees store the most carbon during their first decades, often a tree‘s most productive period.  Large leaves and wide crowns enable maximum photosynthesis.  Native species will thrive in your soil and best support local wildlife.

Red Alder also provides an important deciduous component in the predominantly coniferous forests of the Northwest. Typically, shrub and herb vegetation under Alder is quite different from that of conifer-dominated areas. A variety of animals seem to prefer or depend on Alder for food or habitat. Maintenance of a red alder component can provide greater habitat diversity within or between conifer stands.

Without question Alder is one of the most environmentally friendly hardwood species.  Combined with its excellent working properties, the choice to use Cascade Alder in all your projects and purchases should be an easy one.

Alder as a carbon store

Many may not realize that some of the most effective solutions to addressing our climate challenges lie in our existing land and forests. Forests can store even more carbon through sustainable forest management, which has been proven to play a significant role in sequestering more carbon. Forest owners‘ values align with our climate and environment’s needs – they care about their land and its future.

What is carbon sequestration?

The element known as carbon is essential for all plant and animal life on earth.   The total amount of carbon on the planet is constant, but it moves around, and changes form with relative ease.  Burning fossil fuels, which have stored huge amounts of carbon below the earth‘s surface for millennia, converts carbon dioxide (CO2).  In the atmosphere, CO2 absorbs and emits infrared radiation, contributing to planetary warming.  The current level of CO2 is thought to be the highest in 20 million years, and scientists are working on solutions to capture and safely contain atmospheric carbon.  One approach, “terrestrial sequestration“, involves the simple planting of trees.  A tree absorbs carbon during photosynthesis and stores it in the wood for the life of the tree.

Planting of trees can be taken a step further.  When Alder is harvested, sawn, dried, and turned into cabinets, mouldings, doors, and furniture, it is storing carbon for the life of the article instead of it returning to the ground and atmosphere during the phase of a trees life where it dies and rots.  So planned, careful use of wood products like Alder vs. plastics like melamine and metals is environmentally friendly.  A focus on buying real hardwood from sustainably sourced areas is just as important and should carry the same “feel good“ as planting a tree.