Nearly 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) will be absorbed by Forest Coal Farms in the next 30 years. It is a new and one of the largest projects carried out by the State Forests. The first effects of these activities will be presented at COP24 – a conference in Katowice devoted to climate change, taking place at the beginning of December.

This Forest Project is a response to the progressing negative climate change. The main factor contributing to rapid climate change is excessive emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, e.g. nitrous oxide (N2O). Activities carried out within the framework of this project are to increase the forest’s ability to absorb carbon, increase existing carbon resources in the ecosystem, reduce carbon dioxide emissions from soils and reduce the risk of uncontrolled emissions of this gas as a result of catastrophes.

It is also the implementation of the proposals contained in the Paris Agreement of 2015, which identifies forests as a natural absorber of greenhouse gases and puts emphasis on increasing the efficiency of this process.

The whole project is financed from the State Forests’ own resources.

Additional afforestation

The project of Forest Coal Farms is currently carried out in 23 forest districts across 13 regional directorates of State Forests. The activities will cover 12 thousand hectares of forests, but foresters estimate that we have many more areas suitable for this project’s implementation in Poland.

The Forest Coal Farms were initiated in 2017 and the project will be implemented until 2024. Their effect is estimated at 30 years.

According to State Forests experts, thanks to them, more than a million tons of carbon dioxide will be absorbed.

This is a lot, considering that according to the report „Forestry 2017”, prepared by the Central Statistical Office, the stock of coal in living wood biomass in 2015 for Poland amounted to 822 million tons – an equivalent to 87 tons of coal per hectare. To compare, in 1900 this stock amounted to 467 million tons.

What will this project consist in? As the State Forests explain, this is an activity performed on top of the planned, standard forest management activities.

As part of the Forest Coal Farms project, additional activities are carried out such as afforestation, introduction of fast-growing species such as Douglas fir, the second floor of trees and undergrowth, increasing the area of natural regeneration and taking measures to prevent excessive damage to the soil surface.

The State Forests managed to convince 20 leading companies – both state-owned and private – to cooperate with the institution on implementation of this project. For all these companies, an auction of carbon dioxide units was organized in October (JDW, the amount of organic carbon equivalent to 1 tonne of CO2, which as a result of additional activities will be accumulated in tree stands and soil). All the revenue from the sale of JDWs will be used by the State Forests for activities related to nature and biodiversity protection, forest and historical education, as well as for the sake of tourists, e.g. for construction or modernization of bicycle paths, resting places or forest car parks.

Scientific cooperation

The project is accompanied by large-scale research work carried out by the leading Polish universities and institutes. For example, the Office for Forest Management and Geodesy, on previously selected research plots throughout Poland, collects samples of organic material coming from different layers of the forest, e.g. litter, trees or roots.

In the course of its work it also takes many measurements of tree parameters, e.g. height of trees or height of the crown settling.

In laboratories, each sample is thoroughly examined, mainly in terms of carbon content. The results of this work are used to create models, including tree stand growth curves, which are to replace the variables previously included in the CBM (Carbon Budget Model).

Foresters for the climate

The sustainable forest management pursued by State Forest also has a positive impact on the climate. Moreover, it provides wood for Polish economy. However, every year the volume of wood obtained from forests is lower than forest growth.Thus, for over 70 years the volume of wood in the forests has been increasing and thanks to aforrestation the area covered by forests in Poland keeps growing. In this way the role of forest in absorb-ing CO2 is getting more significant. The State Forests are also implementing the Energy Forest project aimed at reducing energy use in the buildings and other facilities of State Forests, increasing the use of RES, and also to increase the number of electric vehicles in State Forests fleet. The main objectives of the project are to improve energy security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency, promote electric vehicles in road transport and disseminate knowledge and good practices in the field of renewable energy sources.