Fôret pro Bos publishes a new document on poplar trees and their impact on environment and climate

ProPopulus Team

“Peuplier, Environnement & Climat” (Poplar, Environment and Climate) is the latest publication by Forêt pro Bos. The brochure, which is free to download in French and Dutch, compiles the history of populiculture in France, Wallonia and Flanders, and offers a complete overview on how poplar cultivation has been managed and perceived in these regions and why some misconceptions have come about regarding populiculture and its environmental impact.

The publication emphasizes that in recent years, particularly in France and the Netherlands, “poplar is gaining popularity again, thanks in part to research on poplar as a wood source and its value in terms of biodiversity”. Also, it points out that poplar continues to be of economic importance for the region for various actors like foresters, sawmills, farmers, entrepreneurs, operators, wood processors, architects, carpenters, etc.

The brochure also reviews the positive impact of poplar plantations on the environment, not only as a way to preserve biodiversity but also:

As water filters: “Many studies have shown a good capacity of alluvial forests and poplar plantations to fight diffuse pollution by filtering nitrates and phosphates as well as absorbing and transforming certain pesticides (phytoremediation).

 These skills are linked to the ability to root prospecting and tree physiology”.

“In addition to their ability to filter nitrates and phosphates, poplars are fast growing trees, accumulating biomass, tolerating hydromorphy and able to draw water directly from the alluvial aquifer. They are of great interest for cleaning up sites contaminated and improve water quality, by biodegrading toxic components present in their environment (pesticides) or by accumulating metals”.

As a way to recover the soil: “When agricultural land is taken out of use, the soil remains loaded with residual nitrogen and phosphorus, which have an acidifying effect.

This makes the soil incompatible with many forest flora and fauna species. This is why, it is important to choose a first species of reforestation which can, in a way, “unload” this soil. The rate at which soil acidification is slowed is largely determined by the choice of species for reforestation. Fast-growing species with deacidifying properties are therefore recommended”.

“Poplar is ideal because of the relatively high concentrations of calcium (alkaline cations and little lignin) leaves that will form the litter. As the litter breaks down quickly, acidification slows down and accelerates the development of a typical forest soil. In other words, poplar is a pioneer species for ecological and responsible reforestation for agricultural land”.

As carbon sinks: “Forests (poplars) contribute significantly to slowing global warming (mitigation).

 Forests absorb greenhouse gas (CO2) from the atmosphere, use it for their own growth processes, and release oxygen. CO2 is stored both on the surface and underground, but also through the subsequent use of wood. Wood is a renewable and sustainable raw material that can easily replace polluting materials such as plastic, metal and concrete. CO2 emissions from wood as a building and interior material are not only lower during processing, but the CO2 stored during the tree growing process is also retained by wood in the form of furniture, parquet, building materials and packaging. On average, a poplar plantation in Europe stores around 11 tonnes of CO2 per hectare each year. When trees get too old, their growth slows down, making CO2 storage less efficient. The transformation of a sapling optimizes carbon storage. The icing on the cake is that trees are involved in the filtration of fine particles and other pollutants”.

Forêt pro Bos is part of the Feel Wood portfolio of projects, which started on 1st October, 2016, to respond to the concerns of stakeholders in the timber industry in the cross-border geographic area covered by the projects (France, Wallonia and Flanders). Forêt Pro Bos is focused on the evaluation and renewal of the wood resource, in and outside the forest, due to its importance in supplying the local wood industry. It also aims to improve the knowledge of forest users and local elected officials about the real impacts of forestry on the economy and biodiversity.

To download the document, please click here

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