The myth of temperate forestation as viable sequestrate of carbon dioxide

This is a guest post by Brychan Davies


Global warming is a reality, as is global cooling. Throughout geological time, and throughout the history of mankind there is a natural variance in global temperatures. Geological variance is caused by variations in the tilt of the earth, the polarity switching, and continental drift. The variation on the historical timescale is caused by natural variance in oceanic currents, volcanic activity, and natural oscillations and cyclic proliferation of flora and fauna. Global warning, global cooling is not new. It is part of the natural condition of planet Earth.

Greenhouse Effect

The best example of ‘the greenhouse effect’ is on the planet Venus. A thick soup of acidic water vapour and carbon dioxide ‘traps’ the suns energy and global temperatures are scorching, with an average surface temperature of 300c. The opposite effect can be found on Mars, where the atmosphere which is 95% carbon dioxide but so sparse there is little effect on the atmosphere where global temperatures of –60c. Earth is in the ‘Goldilocks zone’, and naturally oscillates about halfway between these extremes. The mix of naturally fluctuating atmospheric carbon dioxide, and water vapour plays a role in the global temperature.

Fossil Fuels

All coal, oil and fossil fuels on earth was once atmospheric carbon dioxide. In fact the main coal deposits on earth are as a result of carbon dioxide sequestration, 300 million years ago, during the ‘carboniferous’ era. This is the carbon dioxide released back into the atmosphere during the current industrial period, and it is claimed to have a dangerous effect on global warming.


It is also claimed that if we now plant trees on land currently used for grazing animals we can mitigate this effect. Is it true?

Well, no. The issue of global warming, and the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide was first identified in the early 1990s and proposals to try to manage this on a global scale was in Japan, in 1992, and it became known as the Kyoto Protocol. Coincidentally, Japan is an ideal comparison with the British Islands, both being of a temperate seasonal climate, with a modern industrial heritage, similar moderation of seasons by oceanic currents, and similar natural forests, a mixture of native coniferous forest at elevation and to the north, with a natural forest of deciduous woodland on the main landmass, with natural shrub and grassland at elevation.

Saikai Forest near Nagasaki. Click to enlarge

Japan, both fortunately and unfortunately, has the advantage of having 75 years worth of continuous scientific study of re-forestation. It arose after a nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki towards the end of WWII. It’s a port city very similar in size to Swansea, surrounded by an area of agricultural land on a peninsular, and a backdrop of moderate uplands, and a self-contained river system.

The bomb resulted in all this being taken out of productive use and a programme of forestation initiated, whose purpose at the time was to soak up nuclear contamination. It is the most intensively studied area of temperate reforestation in the world and has been studied for over 75 years. One particular measure being the sequestration of atmospheric carbon to measure ‘dilution’ of nuclear isotopes, but also provides empirical data on the seasonal sequestration of carbon dioxide as well as a net figure by different tree species over the 75 year period.

The key graph is shown below.

Click to enlarge

CO2 sequestration

Tonnes per hectare per year.

Nineteen-sixty-eight was an important year. It was when the forest changed from being a carbon sink to a net carbon emitter. It related to the age of the trees and the natural eco-system. Mature trees decay, this is when the action of fungi, and other parasitic flora and fauna which consumes the wood, leaf litter, and soils, emitting carbon dioxide in quantities greater than that being absorbed by the tree through photosynthesis.

Tadaki, Y.; Hachiya, K. Forest Ecosystems and Their Productivity; Ringyo Kagakugijutsu Shinkosho: Tokyo, Japan, 1968. (In Japanese)

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol committed participants to financing measures to tackle carbon dioxide emissions. The United States blamed the rest of the world, suggesting the issue is in the Amazon, the European Union spent cash on changing agriculture with set-aside schemes, and this has now morphed in the United Kingdom to ‘blame the farmers’. Japan, however, took a more scientific approach and launched satellites to measures their forestation, launched a programme of study to measure carbon sequestration of a forestation programme, and was able to use data previously obtained (1968 tipping point) to give real numbers to the subject.

Estimation of CO2 Sequestration by the Forests in Japan by Discriminating Precise Tree Age Category using Remote Sensing Techniques” – 2015.

The reality is that a newly planted forest does act as an initial carbon sink, but only until the forest reaches maturity. Both show that net gains are negligible after 75 years, although there’s an earlier peak with coniferous forest in comparison to deciduous forest. Gains then become losses. The report is here.

The study concludes with: “The CO2 amount and other important information revealed in this study has provided important data. Do old mature trees sequestrate as much as younger trees? The answer is no when we see the trend of the sequestration as a function of tree age.” Kotaro Iizuka, Ryutaro Tateishi et al.


So what lessons can we draw on forestation as a method of sequestrating carbon dioxide in Wales? Mass forestation is not the answer. There is flora that does the job – peat bogs. This is where the acidity of the soil does not allow decomposition of vegetation and the result in layer upon layer of peat deposits. To maintain this ground cover, the light grazing of animals is needed, like sheep, to prevent the ingress of trees.


Why plant forests and remove farmers from the land when doing so has an adverse effect on carbon dioxide sequestration? Why is there an obsession with projects like the ‘Tetrapak Financed Summit to Sea’ project when there is clear scientific evidence that its objective cannot be met by its proposals? If there are short term gains prior to clear felling at sequestration tipping point, why isn’t this a purely commercial proposal? Why use upland grazing land that is already a net carbon sink for projects that scientifically are known to be inferior?

Additional abstract

There is a myth that the large areas of treeless uplands that exist in Wales and the rest of Britain is a ‘man made landscape’ and planting trees in these areas is a form of ‘rewilding’. This is utter nonsense. There is clear scientific evidence that much of upland Britain has been treeless for the last 4000 years, and this is proved by pollen analysis of peat cores. After the last ice age, there were significant natural cyclic oscillations climatic change – dry Boreal, wet Atlantic, dry Sub-boreal, wet Sub-Atlantic. This eradicated almost all upland forestation long before any impact of human activity.

Nant-y-moch from Pumlumon. Click to enlarge

In fact there is ample evidence that forestation in in the 1970s of these areas has caused significant degradation of the diversity of wildlife, the erosion of upland peat deposits, and the net release of sequestrated CO2. There are is currently 589 gigatonnes of carbon in the atmosphere. The current store of carbon in peat deposits is over 600 gigatonnes. Large scale forestation of upland Wales will result in a significant net release of carbon into the atmosphere, and significantly add to global warming.

♦ end ♦


54 thoughts on “The myth of temperate forestation as viable sequestrate of carbon dioxide

  1. Brychan

    UPDATE – Terminology. The Woodland Trust and the BBC.

    It should be noted that the BBC has now adopted the racist attribution of ‘Celtic rainforest’. The term was recently invented, in 2010, by the ‘re-wildling colonialists’ as their only ‘eco-region’. The type of woodland they refer to is correctly defined in scientific terms as ‘temperate rainforest’ as that refers to the climate giving rise nature of the flora.

    It may be an attempt to group the temperate rainforests of southwest Ireland (which does not have snakes), Western Scotland (which has natural coniferous margin) and the valleys of North West Wales (which has a natural peat moor margin). The term ‘Celtic’ has no scientific definition of flora. An inconvenient truth is that there is a patch of temperate rainforest in Devon. More widely it is found in southern Chile, Korea, Gotland, and Victoria Island off Western Canada.

    Celtic is an anthropological grouping of human culture, like Anglo-Saxon. The BBC does not refer to the specific flora of eastern England as the Saxon Fenland, so why refer to temperate woodland in Wales as ‘Celtic’. It’s a crude and racist attempt to disconnect the flora and landscape of our country from the current inhabitants, the nation. Attribute it to an historical cultural grouping of human anthropology. It’s as if Wales does not exist. It eradicates the countries of Scotland, Ireland and Wales into an historical imperialism.

    Will the BBC and the Guardian be now referring to the Sonoran arid areas of North America as the Hispanic Desert, or perhaps the grasslands of Serengeti as the Negro Plains?

  2. CapM

    I think your argument regarding lynx and other large mammals and birds is faulty. You make many statements that are backed up by “cherry picked” or irrelevant information. Or even “facts” that are simply wrong. The one about Bobcats (a different species to American Lynx which are a different species to European lynx) appears to contain all three of them.

    The basic premise you are not taking onboard is that animals such as golden eagles, lynx. wolves and bears aren’t” choosing” mountain and northern habitats because they are THE habitat for them but because they are the only places where these animals have not been exterminated from. They would much “prefer” to live in the richer lowlands and lower latitudes.
    If this is too abstract for you then consider the Red Kite. A few decades ago (apart from Tregaron refuse tip) apparently their natural habitat was the remote parts of mid Wales. Now with human persecution mostly gone they’re enjoying the good life in the Tywi valley between Llandeilo and Carmarthen. Much easier pickings.

    If there are woodands (or scrub) there will be herbivores. If there are herbivores there will be predators. I can’t see why you think saying Cymru is somehow the exception is a useful argument against reintroduction of lynx. I agree that here would be consequences better to investigate. identify and quantify those.

    1. Brychan

      The main reason why Red Kite, native to Wales, at its lowest ebb, survived in mid Wales is because a good proportion of its diet is carrion from agriculture, including sheep carcasses and dead game birds. It owes much of its survival to dead farmed animals, prior to the introduction of the ‘fallen stock schemes’.

      When these schemes were introduced on the uplands, a replacement feeding programme was introduced, initially to save the species, and then to expand its geographical footprint. This is good habitat management for a native species. It is not introducing alien species.

      Some birds of prey are specialist and use sound to hunt (owl).
      Some birds of prey are specialist and use movement to hunt (sea eagle, falcon).

      Unlike the above examples, the red kite has colour sight in the red spectrum, and can see and feed on carrion. When looking at different species, it’s important to look at the survival niche of their habitat. In reference to Lynx, it is true that the artificial conifer plantations in Wales do offer a niche for introduction, but it is still an alien habitat, responsible to the degradation of habitat of other native species. Lynx was eradicated from Wales by previous natural climate change of habitat, not by man.

      Think about it.

      Wolf survived in Wales until quite recently, but by this time Lynx was extinct. The idea that man sought out reclusive, lone-living, difficult to find Lynx while the wolf was the main predator of livestock roamed the landscape a will. Lynx introduction is more about English townies setting up petting zoos in Wales and really a load on nonsense. Gelert was not mistaken for tiddles.

      In Wales, the natural herbivores have been replaced with farmed herbivores of the same species. They are part of the habitat.

  3. CapM

    “I wouldn’t want to devalue Welsh produce in such a way.”
    In which case you are relying on the producers of a Welsh Camembert to pay more for their birch bark boxes than they need to and so either reduce their profits or increase their prices.

    Issues preventing consumers paying over the odds – some egs.= demand for cheap goods, disconnect between consumers and producers, lack of appreciation of local origin, reluctance of producers to co-operate and initiate, lack of official interest, commitment & support.

    Issues preventing producers receiving more than they are – some egs. = raw material is exported to England where most or all of the added value is generated. Reluctance of processors to co-operate and initiate, lack of official interest, commitment & support.

    I imagine that I’m not saying anything you don’t know already.

    Implementing a moratorium on incoming “goodlifers” tomorrow would have an effect on demographics, culture, affordability of homes amongst other things. However such a moratorium would not address the consumer/producer issues and so would do next to nothing to actually realize the potential you have identified.

    1. Brychan

      There is a simple solution to ‘goodlifers’ and that is to introduce an NHS cost valuation to the OPD calculation. I suggest the value being the average tax contribution to the NHS of a native farmer over a lifetime. Either that, or send them back to England for their neonatal, GP provision, dentistry, A&E, elderly and social care. They opt out of paying but opt into using. Same with access to benefits and pensions with a ‘nominal NI charge’ to each OPD plot.

      1. CapM

        Now you’ve suggested a mechanism for discouraging goodlifers but again that mechanism does nothing to actually to address the consumer and producer issues and so realize the potential you have identified.

        1. Brychan

          I spoke with some boatmen doing a mussel scrape trip to the banks launching from the quay in Cydweli not long ago. They harvest for Parsons Pickles at Porth Tywyn. They said there’s more profit on lava bread delivered to specialist supplies, bundling online, and places like Harrods than their whole contract with Tesco and some other supermarkets due to margin squeeze.

          Selling volume cheaply often results in less profit yet much more work. Can also lead to over-exploitation of the environment. It’s an issue of product positioning. Important, not to devalue the brand or any intrinsic value. There are also number of quality cheese producers in Wales but I see the ones that devalue and go for volume tend to fail. It’s been an interesting debate, something that should continue in the Senedd and Finance Wales, particularly with the effect of Brexit on Welsh agriculture.

          Note – Sent some Lava Bread as a Christmas present to a woman I know from the US. She smeared it on her face and sent me a photo. It got me thinking as to why this beauty product is never used in Llanelli, and if there are opportunities and new markets to exploit.

  4. Derrick Towlson

    Looks like yet another door opening with greasy palms for the scammers with fancy brochures and big clever words.
    “Save the planet – invest in your own part of a forest – guaranteed returns of 10%p.a. tax efficient “

    1. Brychan

      There is already the ‘adopt a Lynx’ scam. The natural fluctuation in both temperature and rainfall in the past few thousand years not only resulted in the creation of upland peat bogs in Wales, but also the extinction of some wildlife, often wrongly attributed to predation of man. An example of this is the Lynx, an ambush predator, the native habitat is boreal or alpine coniferous forest.

      There are no native coniferous trees to Wales.

      The most northerly natural Silver Fir (Dry-Alpine) forest in Britain was in Dorset, and the most southerly Scots Pine (Wet-Atlantic) forest was North Yorkshire and the eastern fells of Cumbria. Pollen analysis places these species as near extinct in Wales long before the significant influence of mankind. Recent radio-carbon dating of Lynx bones found in Britain (after the recent natural warming and cooling events) show it was only native, as it is today, to coniferous forest. So the ‘re-introduction’ proposal of Lynx to Wales is ‘availability of release sites’ rather than any scientific basis.

      1. CapM

        “the native habitat [of the lynx] is boreal or alpine coniferous forest.
        There are no native coniferous trees to Wales.”

        Your argument follows on from this. Is the argument you make a personal one or are you referring to scientific articles etc and if so can you provide references or links?

        The distribution of lynx depends on availability of it’s prey. In Britain (as it is in much of Western Europe today) this was roe deer. Roe deer can be found in deciduous, mixed or coniferous woodland and at practically any altitude not just alpine/ boreal. Therefore so too can lynx and they would have been historically .

        Of course the reintroduction of lynx depends on the availability of release sites. A pretty obvious quality of any release site is that it has a sufficient supply of prey. The prey needs sufficient habitat. In the north of England, Scotland and Cymru coniferous woodland is the only woodland habitat large enough. In southern England there are large areas of deciduous woodland and the Forest of Dean has been suggested as a reintroduction site. This is science based.

        If you want to counter any Lynx reintroduction in Cymru on scientific grounds I think you are probably going to come unstuck unless you base it on the availability of prey and the viability of any population (to prevent inbreeding).

        There are also other arguments against reintroducing them.
        But – The lynx shouldn’t be re-introduced because I don’t like those who are proposing it argument it isn’t going to convince anyone much.

        1. Brychan

          Deer are naturally predated by wolf as well as Lynx. The former being the apex predator in deciduous forest, the latter surviving after the dearth of harsh winters by preying on juveniles in spring, as a tree climbing ambush predator best camouflaged by coniferous forest. There are two scientific papers, and a cultural reference I can refer to relating to the natural distribution of Lynx.


          Dr David Hetherington specifically identifies Scotland above all other parts of the British landmass for re-introduction on the basis that only the native ‘Caledonian’ coniferous forest has provided consistent habitat since the last ice age. Most of England and of Wales has not have this continuity of habitat due to natural fluctuations in temperature combined with ‘longer daylight’ in the summer months allowing the Scots Pine to out-compete the usually faster growing deciduous forest further south.


          Roger M. Jacobi did a geographical analysis and radio-carbon dating of Lynx bones throughout the British Island since the last ice age and found that, those south of Cumbria/Northumberland pre-dated natural climate change since 8kyears BP and all finds since, right up to medieval times have been north of this habitat boundary.


          The cultural reference to Lynx in our own heritage when the species is referred to in an ancient form of the Welsh language. The verse is Pais Dinogad, 7thC, and pre-dates the introduction of the English language to Britain. It has often wrongly been attributed to what is now Wales but actually originates in a Welsh dialect of Cumbria and Strathclyde, which gives it a landscape ‘stamp’. Part of the ‘Welsh Lynx’ myth is to do with eradicating the history of the Welsh language from what is now swathes of northern England.

          You are right about the Forest of Dean being a good current habitat. It was an area specifically given over to large conifer plantations for supply to the early coal mining industry. Free-mining rules was that if you cut down a deciduous tree you had to plant a replacement conifer. Like the artificial Gwydir conifer forest, it makes good habitat for Lynx but that doesn’t make it indigenous.

          1. CapM

            I think you have confused the potential lynx habitat identified in the Hetherington paper ie 20 000 km2, with the area of Caledonian forest that remains ie 180 km2. The 180 is part of the 20 000 (not all of it woodland) but most of the woodland is plantation conifers. The paper makes the point that ” All woodland types within the study area were considered to be potential lynx habitat”

            The case which the paper makes is that it is the large area of suitable habitat ands it’s interconnectivity which makes Scotland a potential reintroduction site for lynx. It’s nothing to do with the remnant Caledonian forest. Native pine forest is not a prerequisite for lynx reintroduction in Scotland and therefore the same goes for Cymru.

            From the second link
            “The occurrence of lynx in early medieval Britain shows that earlier periods of climate change, previously blamed for the species’ ex-tinction in Britain, were not responsible. Instead anthropogenic factors such as severe deforestation, declining deer populations and persecution, are likely to have caused the extirpation of lynx in Britain.”

            There is no evidence yet for lynx in southern Britain in historic times. But like wolves and bears it’s reasonable to conclude that lynx were eradicated in the south due to human pressure leaving those species clinging on longer in more remote and less populated areas such as Scotland. Golden eagles are a modern example of this effect.

            You might like to find out if a study similar to the Hetherington one on lynx habitat has been undertaken to equivalent scientific standard for Cymru. Whether it has been or hasn’t been then that would provide a better starting point for any science based critique of the project that fixating on when natural coniferous forest died out here.

            I doubt that the lynx project people have any interest in our language or history,

            1. Brychan

              You are misquoting Britain for England (and Wales). Of course climate change, 8k to 4k BP, was not an extermination factor in Britain because they survived in Scotland and the far north of England. This is what the paper says.

              We know that the deciduous forest of southern England was immense and intact right up to the Roman invasion and the Lynx was not present. We know this from pollen deposits and also the written record of the Romans. The pre-roman roads followed the tops of downland, from Kent to Wiltshire, through to the spines of the Pennines. Weald and Vale was forested. The Oak expanse, devoid of Lynx. Trade in pre-roman Wales was maritime, for that very reason. Valleys were thick with temperate deciduous rain forest.

              Think of the logic of what you are correctly saying. Roe deer, the native species and the main prey of lynx. They only thrive on the edges of deciduous forest but can thrive throughout and within coniferous forests. A ‘wild’ deciduous forest has an impenetrable under-story of bramble, holly, and other similar flora, periods of spring and autumn due to leaf fall. Unlike a natural coniferous forest which is more open with an under-story of heather and similar flora all year. The lynx is a sit and wait ambush predator that climbs trees to pounce down. The wolf (which is different) and native to Wales, a stalking-pack predator with much bigger range. They feeds on boar (deciduous forest) and aurock or goat (grass uplands). Lynx is alien to Wales as long as the peat has been forming on the hill and oak trees dominate the valleys.

              Note – We see this in the United States with re-introduction of wolf in national parks. Massive increase in diversity of flora and fauna, rapid reforestation due to reductions in grazing, but almost eradication of the bobcat (American Lynx) in these areas, returning to the margins, it’s native habitat, of open desert or clear delta.

            2. Brychan

              Golden Eagles are not native to Wales but Sea Eagles (white tail) are. Scotland is different. The Golden Eagle decline in Scotland did not occur due to pressure of native human population. The sharp decline was concurrent with human de-population. When the Caledonian forest cut down by aristocracy for sheep. In Scotland it’s called the clearances.

              The argument that “although Lynx is not climatively native to Wales but our landscape does pose an opportunity for introduction” is a common one. The same applied to mink. From the Teifi to the Conwy, it’s been a disaster. Just because Lynx can thrive, specifically in non-native Spruce forest, does not mean it’s good to introduce. There will be consequences, some yet unknown.

        2. Brychan

          Personal opinion – The best place for invasive plantation of a Lynx population would be the New Forest in Hampshire, not only does it have good habitat, it is populated by the ‘Royal Deer’ these are currently being culled by shooting. The reason why Wales is being considered and not Hampshire is because Welsh livestock farmers are expendable, as part of “theme park Wales”.

  5. Dafis

    Whatever may be the rights or wrongs, the truths or lies, and even the grey areas of the “climate change” debates one fundemental truth should always prevail. That is the right of the indigenous people, those that inhabit the land, to be lead implementors of any policies and programmes of work designed to mitigate the worst characteristics of climate change. That term malignant hyperthermia is attractive as it serves to describe succinctly the prevalent condition in certain parts of our world. It also does a good job of describing the vocal output – a.k.a hot air – that we get from our politicians and others engaged in harnessing the climate debate to suit their own devious agendas. Keep the carpetbaggers out, let local communities and interested regional industries like agriculture, food production take the lead and reap any rewards like grants or soft loans. Corporate spongers and Monbiotic agenda surfers must be excluded for anything to work with any chance of integrity.

  6. This comment came in e-mail form from an Argentine friend in the USA, a medical man. Jac.

    The analysis of the effectiveness of forestation as a carbon sink is convincing, but unfortunately is preceded by what seems to be a denial of man made global warming, with references to natural warming and cooling. Everybody accepts that these natural phenomena happen, but now we are talking about something different: a rapid increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases caused by human activity leading to unprecedented concentrations in the atmosphere with consequent rapid temperature increase of the Earth.

    There is near consensus in the scientific community about this. There are a few who disagree. A friend if mine believes—or at least says—that it is an act of God, and that man need not interfere, or even should not. I stood in awe of his faith, until I remembered that he made his career in the oil industry! Another explanation maybe the desire to distinguish oneself from the crowd. There are other, less benevolent possibilities, including, of course, that deniers are right.

    I believe debate could be facilitated if we improved our vocabulary to distinguish between a natural temperature increase (call it cyclical warming) and the current man made rapid temperature increase (call it Earth fever).

    The term that I would like to see used is “malignant hyperthermia”. It is currently applied to a medical condition seen in predisposed individuals subject to gaseous anesthesia that has a high mortality unless treated properly. There striking parallels between this condition and what is happening to Earth right now. “Warming” is too mild of a word—it can even have a positive connotation. “Malignant hyperthermia”, on the other hand, realistically points to a dire future. Fortunately, as in medicine, there is a cure, if applied promptly.

    1. Brychan

      There is no ‘denials’ in by original piece, quite the opposite. It questions to efficacy of schemes of ‘mass forestation’ as is being proposed. There is no such thing as a ‘scientific consensus’. Science obtains and deliberates on empirical data and offers sound conclusions, regardless of the opinions of others. Consensus breakers include Copernicus and Einstein. It is wrong to say the recent elevation in temperature is ‘unprecedented’. It is normal. How much of this latest fluctuation is due to elevated carbon dioxide is not yet known, but my original posting identifies this as an important causality. We do have global temperature data and this is best measured to datum with the Amazonian mire analysis, corroborated by the Greenland ice chronology. It is here.

      Global temperature fluctuations in the last 10,00 years.
      The 8.2k Hudson Bay event resulted in a 2m rise in sea levels.

      Wales is not unique as being a small country that has suffered years of colonialism, exploitation of natural resource and an inheritance of partially damaged ecology. Many other small counties have experienced this and after gaining independence have developed science based solutions.

      A good example is here.

      You will notice in the introduction the phrase “The extinction of the phenomenon of ancient coppice woodlands would mean irreparable impoverishment of the natural and CULTURAL heritage.”

      The scientific solution for Wales is the same as that of the Czech Republic. The continued encouragement of grazing husbandry, protection of upland peat deposits, and the systematic commercial introduction of ‘glade and coppice’ farming techniques on lower slopes and valleys, as a complement to existing summer stock-migration to uplands. Farmers already do this. No need to move subsidy to the third sector, also, no augmentation from other countries is needed, or wanted.

      Caution – The United States provides an excellent example of how and why not to remove animal husbandry from a natural landscape. For thousands of years the ‘Great Plains’ were grazed by a migratory species of cow (the Bison or Buffalo) sustainably predated by the pre-Columbian civilisation of humans. In the 19th century this was replaced by migratory grazing of domestic cattle by the post-Columbian civilisation. There was no adverse environmental effects other than a period of human genocide. The environmental problem arose when at the time of WW1 the US government prioritised ploughed agriculture to grow corn and wheat, evicting both cowboys and Indians. It resulted in environmental disaster known as the ‘dust bowl’ of the 1920s. Don’t let governments driven by flawed dogma do the same to Wales, save our uplands.

      1. CapM

        I won’t address your first paragraph as anyone who is alive 30 years from now will know all too well about the effects of man made climate change as their lives will be significantly impacted by it.

        Being a small independent country is no guarantee of good environmental management.

        In Cymru coppicing died out because it was not cost effective for landowners. Being converted to grassland /cropland or neglected and left to turn into unmanaged older aged woodland. Coppicing is labour intensive, the crop low in value and that means expensive to manage.

        Very few farmers have any interest in it. Coppicing is mostly done by conservation and other third sector groups with the assistance of grants and volunteers. It’s also a popular activity with incoming “goodlifers”. For farmers to be interested a lot of money would have to be available to them and a lot of effort would be needed to convince them to undertake it.

        Few farmers actually manage their farms with the environment as the priority. They manage their farms in response to the market and government policies. Guardians of the countryside they are not despite what they and the farming unions say. In that sense they are no better or worse than those guardians of the high street – shopkeepers and their landlords.

        The ecology of the Great Plains is different to the ecology of Cymru as is the ecology of the Czech Republic.

        1. Brychan

          Coppice and glade is not labour intensive. You only have to do the trees every 10 or 15 years. The timber is the by-product. You just phone one of these guys and they come and take the wood away at a small profit. They, or you, can sell it by the trailer load. We should remove VAT on the product and treat it as agricultural output like other small countries in Europe.

          I think you’ll also find the ‘sustainable forests’ that make the beech and oak furniture that grace the kitchens of the posh urban actually come from places like the Czech Republic.

          The main gain, however, is pasture enhancement of both glade and wood that’s the product, producing the following…

          (1) No need for artificial chemical nitrates, the mulch does nitration and the whole soil condition improves as the beetles worms and grubs subsoil till.
          (2) It provides shelter for all year out-door livestock, and allows for stock diversity. Pigs in the wood, cattle for tall swathe, and sheep for tight graze on a stock rotation basis.
          (3) Natural phosphate content doubles, birds always shit.
          (4) The grazed margins have species diversity, so there’s greater fat content in milk and better texture of beef.
          (5) No need for winter indoors dependent breeds and the labour and capital intensive slurry handling.
          (6) Allows for diversification of livestock so reducing financial uncertainty.

          The ‘goodlifers’ don’t do this. They claim benefits, are complete fakes, have primary income from elsewhere and just use the above as a cover story. I found hobbit-houses with pizza boxes in their recycling bags with receipts for diesel purchased in Sussex.

          It’s Welsh farmers who are the genuine article, as can be seen here.

          The only reason why coppice woodland and hedgerows were ripped out of agriculture in Wales in the first place was because the government, literally, handed farmers cash to do so. (In the Czech Republic before independence at gunpoint). This also had the effect of putting smaller family owned farms at a disadvantage.

          Welsh independence is also about reclaiming our own methods of agriculture and supporting and increasing the native indigenous rural population. That helps us be independent of the colonial power. The Great Plains example is how a huge mistake both commercial and environmental can be made by imposing large scale ‘schemes’ by people who do not live and breathe the landscape they seek to control. Don’t be fooled by ‘Summit To Sea’.

          1. CapM


            “Coppicing is extremely labour intensive and hence in modern times, expensive to carry out. The wood produced tends to have a relatively low value and has been replaced in many instances by other structural materials. Traditional skills have also declined along with the loss of traditional ways of life and the removal of dependence on local natural products. All of these factors have, to a great degree, resulted in the demise of coppicing as an economic and sustainable woodland management practice.”

            Oak used for “posh urban”kitchens comes from trees cut managed on at least a 30 year cycle, (50 plus probably) and so not managed as a coppice.

            One to six- -all great. Ironically most “goodlifers” would probably agree with you. Now all you have to do is convince farmers that it’s viable and profitable. But as you say having primary income elsewhere helps.

            Coppice management in Cymru was on it’s way out well before the government was handing out grants. A combination of jobs with better pay and working conditions that a career in making baskets, hurdles, chair legs, thatching spars etc etc and consumers having access to better and cheaper alternatives to those products.

            Again it’s ironic that you suggest a future for Cymru that involves rural familes producing rustic goods in cottage industries. This is pretty much what a significant number of “goodlifers” are attempting now. The question is how do the Cymry become wealthy enough to be able to indulge in that bucolic ideal.

            1. Brychan

              It’s not ‘artisan goodlifers’ that’s required. It’s native medium sized rural businesses. Why can’t we have stuff like the Cenarth Cricket Bat Factory or the Penybont Parquet Flooring Company? These are not ‘cheap’ products, they need significant investment in small factory infrastructure and consistent quality raw material. Very profitable.

              If the Welsh Government spent as much on seed capital for such rural enterprises as they currently fritter away on the third sector, not only would the ‘fake goodlifers’ starve, but it would provide gainful employment for Welsh people in our rural areas. Add value by native processing. Do you realise how expensive and difficult to source wood manufactured doors and windows are for buildings listed or in ‘conservation areas’? There’s a company in the Ardennes who use coppiced woodland to do this. We can do that, and better, given half a chance.


              The ‘second income to ‘goodlifers’ is rich daddys trust fund or renting out London apartments. The second income to family farms in Wales is working in the Co-Op or B&B. Processing by adding value to our own native produce will be much more lucrative, economically and culturally. I notice my Camembert is wrapped in Silver Birch bark. This is the kind of cash that literally grows on trees; we just need manufacturing investment in our rural areas.

        2. Brychan

          All the farmers I know manage their ecology better than anyone. Government programmes are at best a joke, and at worst an administrative nightmare. We don’t need ‘dig for victory’ for British Empire that was been imposed last century just replaced with ‘candy floss with wellies’ tourism this century. Our landscape is ours, not donated as a theme park. Let the farmers farm, and we know that good farming has a symbiotic relationship with the natural ecology. It’s easier to work with nature, not against it.

          I want to see Monbiot pay Welsh farmers for his dinner, not the other way round.

          1. CapM

            The Re-wilders have their rhetoric also.
            Rhetoric has it’s use but I hope that the rhetoric the opposition to the Monbiot Plan deploys is an improvement on the examples you’ve provided.

            1. Brychan

              Their rewilding is fake. Just colonialism. Here’s some proper re-wilding. No subsidy needed. No Monbiot is sight.

        3. Brychan

          The geology of the Ostrava coalfield in the Czech Republic is a shale and anthracite sinkline, northerly outcropped with millstone grit and old-red sandstone. Its soil structure is defined as boulder clay moraine left as the southernmost extent of cap from the last ice age. It leads southward to an alluvial vale. There’s somewhere else like that. I know it as Morgannwg. Take away that artificial pine forest to see the homes of our ancestors. We should repopulate that land with our native people not zip wires and wind turbines.

          1. CapM

            Broadleaf woodlands are actively managed for timber in Belgium and else-where in mainland Europe. Being managed results in trees with long straight trunks without side branches. We have very little of that type of timber in Cymru. We should have our own high quality hardwood timber supply but it will take half a century to really get production established.

            We could do it but if you want farmers to produce high quality timber and therefore make a reasonable profit they’d need to acquire additional skills and find time to be foresters. Probably more achievable than them wanting to manage coppices but they’d need to accept that the profit comes decades later and quite possibly to an-other generation.

            You said “I notice my Camembert is wrapped in Silver Birch bark. This is the kind of cash that literally grows on trees; we just need manufacturing investment in our rural areas.”

            It was probably made in China $0.20 a piece. I wonder what the producer was paid for the raw material! (or how much the man/woman/child who made it)

            1. Brychan

              I wouldn’t want to devalue Welsh produce in such a way. That’s a bit like selling caviar at Poundland. Wales is a small country where the landscape affords quality produce. We need to be the Swiss watch of agriculture not try to compete with feedlot bargain basement. That’s where we’ve gone wrong in the past for the benefit of England.

              How about Torfaen Truffles, Châteaux Carno, Halen Môn, Penderyn Whisky, Caws Gwaun, Penclawdd Cockles. I want Wales to be a haven for small to medium scale production for high quality with profits to match.

              The sort of place a candy floss Brunnie brings his caravan to the border and turns around because it’s not the place for him. I want Llyn Tegid to be like Lake Lausanne, for Copa’r Wyddfa to be like Chamonix, for the Patti Pavillion to be like La Scala, and Pembrokeshire to be like Tuscany. Food and landscape to match. Toromolinos Brits can fuck off.

              We have the talent and resources and I want that revenue to fill the pockets of Welsh people living on our own landscape. I here the screams of horror from the Welsh Government and Leanne giving birth to kittens, but she should understand that socialism isn’t about keeping people poor, but liberating them from poverty. No matter what part of Wales I look, I see potential.

  7. Dafis

    Thousands of miles off topic but relevant to our concerns about the corrupt global elites, I see that Jeffrey Epstein has allegedly topped himself. Very convenient demise considering that he had capacity to dish the dirt on loads of people who enjoy telling us how we should live our lives.Even dear old Duke of York, whose alleged penchant for very young girls had already been outed, might now get off the hook for lack of corroborative evidence. Lovely people our self appointed elites and grandees. Not enough lamposts left to hang them all.

  8. CapM

    The link below (hopefully) leads to a very detailed report that includes the effect of moorland (including peat bogs) on carbon fixing. Section 13.31 in the conclusion for a short summing up.

    Impact of moorland grazing and stocking rates – Natural England …

    As pointed out in Brychan’s article trees fix carbon at the greatest rate when they’re growing fastest ie during their “adolescence”. Also when they die the carbon they’ve stored gets released back into the atmosphere. A process measured in the low hundreds of years.
    Peat bogs fix carbon at a much more regular rate but when the plants die they do not release much of the carbon they’ve stored back into the atmosphere. That storing isn’t guaranteed as peat bogs can dry due to natural causes and so release carbon. However it’s a process measured in many hundreds to thousands of years.

    As there are peat bogs (also other moorland habitats)in Cymru it makes sense to manage them well for carbon storage and also to improve and re-create them where possible and practicable. They are preferable to being replaced by woodland. It’s pretty easy to trump the Re-wilding’s climate card.

    The greater challenge is achieving the 50%( at least) reduction of sheep numbers that the effective management of peat bogs/moorland for carbon storage requires. Unless there is a agreed pathway for this then the trump card cannot be played.

    Re-wilding will make their argument –
    Growing trees are obviously visible to the public and managed by organisations “open” to scrutiny and therefore to be trusted by the public on do things properly.
    Moorlands whose appearance doesn’t change (as far as the layman can see) managed by farmers in secret and therefore the public shouldn’t assume to trust that they are doing things properly.

    Ultimately it’s about sheep farmers becoming managers of moorlands. In comparison exposing one of the flaws of George Monbiot’s ambition for large swaths of our cefngwlad is child’s play.

      1. CapM

        Anyone interested will need to search for it. My Google search only pointed me directly to the pdf rather than a www address for the report

  9. treforus

    Many thanks for a thought provoking post. The reason for the vast forestry plantations in South Wales is increasingly forgotten, They had no environmental purpose. Too much shipping and too many Royal Navy escorts were tied up in the First World War in importing timber from Norway for pitprops so these forests were mainly planted between the wars for national security of supply close to the pits. After the war they became a cheap and cheerful way of reclaiming worked out opencast sites. I suppose at least logic was involved ,unlike Moonbat’s idiotic schemes.

    Tree planting in Nagasaki has a parallel with Swansea. The original Lower Swansea Valley project of 50 years ago resulted in the lifeless and derelict areas being afforested to bring back into use the lands blighted by copper and other heavy metal residues from the old works. The result seems to have been so successful that some of these wooded areas are now being earmarked for housing.

  10. Martin L

    A well researched article. I remember forest planting all over the UK in the 80s and 90s. There wasn’t anything as obvious as big fat subsidies but the income tax concessions were huge. It allowed individuals and companies to offset profits against the planting and management costs. Huge none native forests were planted and then never harvested as that wasn’t the intention, just tax breaks. Some of these forests have now become Centre Parcs. Coincidence?

  11. Bern Jones

    So more farting subsidised sheep are the post Brexit answer to our little global warming problem – or have I missed the point – not for the first time I admit. I am reminded of Harri Webb’s
    ‘Only daft Ianto
    Is left to recite the Complete Works of Sir Lewis Morris
    To puzzled sheep, before throwing himself over
    The edge of the abandoned quarry. One is not quite sure
    Whether it is fiction or not.’

      1. Dafis

        Jac bach Some people confuse Monbiotics with Microbiotics, and spend a life time swallowing bullshit instead of stuff that does a bit of good !

    1. Brychan

      The world authority on sheep farts is a New Zealander, and geneticist, Dr Suzanne Rowe. (Google her experiments). She puts sheep in boxes and measures the farts. Emissions from sheep farts is dependant on breed and diet.

      Supplementary feeds (high protein ‘nuggets’) are coarse pellets of imported molasses and Soya (legume bulk). This makes the sheep fart. The solution to stop this is elevation migration of the herd. Graze on lowland in winter with supplementary hay from summer meadow flowers and then in summer, move the herd to higher elevation the graze naturally on summer growth of upland grass swathe, with mosses, lichens and tough fibre grasses. This almost eliminates greenhouse gas emissions from the herd.

      She coined the new scientific phrase of “Hafod Migration” which has it’s origins in a place we call Wales. You can perform this experiment yourself. Just capture a vegan interloper in Machynlleth, which can be identified as those which have a Susssex accent, and put them in a fart cage for six months. They will eat lentils, beans, and African grains. Measure the amount of methane emitted. You will notice elevated levels. The same applies to sheep. The traditional upland breeds on a natural migratory diet are almost fartless.

      Dr Rowe found the reduction in carbon offset levee is measurable and falls from $NZ100 to around $NZ43 per tonne, the “Hafod Migration’ husbandry. Why destroy the solution?

  12. Ellie Wales

    Surely if you plant thousands of trees on the uplands they will take water out of the ground, leading to lower river levels. This would be the same kind of mistake that was made by early settlers in Australia. They cleared the land of trees to create grazing but created swamps instead.

  13. Chopper Harley

    This is the most in-depth and fact based explanation of global warming that I can recall reading, what an excellent piece that must have taken sometime to research. Unfortunately that also means that it will go over the heads of most, maybe all those that have been entrusted with making major decisions on our behalf at the Senedd. While they occupy themselves with minor, niche issues, major issues such as the destruction and exploitation of our beautiful country will continue unabated.

    One question though, am I correct in believing that the carbon capture attributed to peat bogs leads to sub surface build up of methane gas?

    1. Brychan

      Methane, although a gas with three times the greenhouse effect of CO2, it’s life in the atmosphere is short. Max 12years. It is naturally broken down in the upper atmosphere by photo-ionisation. Seasonal swathe by grazing animals provides compaction and ‘crust’ which moderates leakage. Prior to man’s husbandry of livestock this was done by natural mega-fauna like Auroch (cows), upland pony and goat (sheep).–cave-painting-extinct-animals.jpg
      An early illustration.

      Dafydd says – “Peat land in the Welsh uplands was drained to create more grazing areas for sheep.”

      No. Drainage by farmers as a method of pasture enhancement was mainly concentrated on marginal land in the valleys, with some augmentation of lower slopes. The few sites where ‘upland’ drainage did take place were fixed years ago by channel infill. This correction was prompted by the studies conducted in the 1970s by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology on land managed by the Nature Conservancy. The lead study was in Cwm Idwal and experimented with seasonal grazing programmes.

      The real situation is quite the opposite. It was the removal of farmers. An example can be seen in the distance from the photo from Pumlumon Fawr in my lead posting. Here’s the video of the site.{removetoplay}

      There are many other examples of this kind of environmental desecration of upland Wales. Remediation would be good. Now that would be re-wilding. I suggest the following order, Clywedog, Celyn, and Elan and all associated leets, dykes and unnatural diversions of drainage. At least Cowlyd used to make Aluminium, now it makes surfers.

      A Welsh elephant has just entered the room!

  14. Dafydd

    Global warming has been accelerated by human activity – a possibly natural cycle has been interfered with by careless human activity, to already disastrous effects for many. This incidentally was known and warned about in the 1970’s. What has changed is the unexpected increasing ‘disaster’ events, the rapid melting of glaciers, the increasing carbon concentrations in the atmosphere etc. Peat land in the Welsh uplands was drained to create more grazing areas for sheep. To reforest now would release more carbon. But given that it would be useful to recognise human effect rather than focus on events 300 million years ago.

    1. And among the ‘human effects’ we must include ripping up peat bogs to plant wind turbines in their vast concrete bases with miles of access roads cut through the peat.

      But as I say, wind turbines are highly visible greenwash, and generate a lot of . . . subsidies.

    2. Brychan

      Dafydd – I only mention 300m years BP as an explanation of the origin of fossil fuels. If you read my posting, the focus is not on this. It’s on the period 8000 to 4000 year BP where natural cyclic oscillations climatic – dry Boreal, wet Atlantic, dry Sub-boreal, wet Sub-Atlantic – results in the absence of trees in the Welsh uplands, well before the effects of man. It goes further and debunks the false premice for ‘rewilding’. A false claim that forestation of areas naturally devoid of trees can act as a sequestrate of atmospheric carbon dioxide. This is the focus of my contribution.

      1. Dafis

        The utter folly of the flawed thinking – that you plant trees all over working land that’s been devoid of trees for millenia to capture carbon just so that all those fuckin’ townies can carry on spewing their pollution into the air.

        Using that kind of logic it might be just as “smart” to totally wipe out any metropolitan area containing more than say 5 million people just to eliminate pollution at its source. Given that most criminals, deviants and perverts live in urban areas it could also reduce the crime levels at the same time. Win-win ?

        1. “Using that kind of logic it might be just as “smart” to totally wipe out any metropolitan area containing more than say 5 million people just to eliminate pollution at its source.” You have a way with words, Dafis, and a genius for thinking outside the box.

          1. Dafis

            …and when I’m in my box my spirit will return to haunt those devious folk who push these wild fibs on gullible people.

  15. Wynne

    Well presented post Brychan. Copy should be sent to Lesley Griffiths AM Minister for Environment Energy and Rural Affairs who should be invited to comment.

    1. And what does this say about onshore wind turbines. Which, on balance, probably cause more problems than they solve. But then, they do generate healthy subsidies. And they are so visible – perfect greenwash.

      I’m beginning to suspect that tree planting may be next bonanza for investors. Which is why the well-connected like George Monbiot want to take over vast swathes of Welsh land for ‘re-wilding’ which, in practice, will mean planting thousands upon thousands of trees for which I bet there’ll be big fat subsidies.

      A couple of recent news reports strengthen this suspicion. If the UK government is putting a monetary value on land and trees then subsidies may not be far behind.

      1. Dafis

        The onshore wind turbine “industry” has been a massive scam from the beginning. Many, but not all, of the key players have been corporates of significant size ( “big” business) or individuals of seriously high net worth often connected to senior politicians. Sure there has been the odd smaller scale enterprise promoted by local community groups or landowners but even in those cases they have had infrastructure prepared by a major contractor.

        Given that “incentives” and grants played a key role in the introduction of this technology it seems to me that all it’s done is created a new channel for transferring wealth from the public purse ( “our money”) into the coffers of the private corporates, often offshore to mitigate tax. Nice work if you can get it.

        The conclusion that it’s a scam is borne out by the fact that competing technologies have to date found it well nigh impossible to get access to the same class of support despite being demonstrably less harmful to environments while in the construction and commissioning stages.

      2. Peter

        Spot on – as ever Jac. Mr Monbiot has to keep spouting in order to earn an income …

        Wind turbines are a misnomer – not REMOTELY as fast as a proper turbine.
        Greenwash rather like “windfarms”. Generators on sticks doesn’t sound so green.

        The Welsh Government is planning even more windmills despite Wales producing far more energy than it needs. ‘Got to be seen to be Green.’ Try asking them about the uncleared poisons emanating from occasional burning ‘turbines’. You won’t get a straight answer.

        The Climate activists ignore historic evidence of changes in the past. They wrongly find it easier to blame mankind [are you listening ‘Climate Extinction’ ?].

        Try asking them what caused the Sahara to turn to desert, the retreat of the glaciers, the Ice Fairs on the Thames.

    2. Brychan

      We already pay for a whole army of scientific staff that Lesley Griffiths has at her disposal. Sadly, she ignores them all. She directs the policy of NRW on the basis of pre-conceived dogma and wine bar tittle-tattle, padded out with inane public relations gobshite typed for her by Deryn. I do, however, think the above contribution most suitable for year 12 school curriculum. Should include a class trip to the abundant outdoor opportunities to see our natural ecology found on our own doorstep throughout Wales. A good replacement for time wasted in tuition in English monarchy and Empire. It includes chemistry, biology, geography, geology and natural history. The story is in our own landscape

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