Your fireplace and wood stove are major drivers of deforestation

If you burn wood to heat your home, you may not realize how many trees are consumed every year by this choice. It's often difficult to see this since most of us have wood delivered in trucks loaded with smaller and sometimes split pieces.

On Gabriola Island, our consumption of wood is the equivalent of 545 logging trucks/year of trees, and this consumes 55 Ha (136 acres) of mature forest every year. Much of this wood is imported from woodlots on Vancouver Island.

If parked end-to-end, these 545 trucks (21.5m in length) would be 11.75 km long - almost the length of the island.

Here's the math and the hyperlinked references to support these calculations.

Forests in B.C. are relatively productive compared to other parts of the world. A Ha of mature forest yields on average 400 cubic meters of wood.  Not all of this wood can be used as firewood but we'll use this number since data on actual amounts of usable wood are difficult to come by. A lower number of usable quantities makes our calculations even more alarming.

This works out to 110.36 cords of firewood per Ha of land, and it requires clear cutting to achieve this yield.

Statistics Canada data from 2016 (the most recent year available) shows that there are 2987 private dwellings on the island.  

Assuming that 50% of households on the island burn wood for home heating (this is likely an underestimate),  and that each dwelling burns 4 cords/year of firewood (another underestimate), approximately 6000 cords of firewood per year are burned. 

This works out to 55 Ha of mature forest cut and burned every year - just for Gabriolans. Math [6000 cords/110 cords of yield per Ha as per above]. Another way of putting it: each dwelling uses 370 square meters of land per year to grow trees for firewood (or approximately two tennis courts).

A logging truck carries on average 40 cubic meters of wood, and 1 cord of firewood is equivalent to 3.62 cubic meters of wood.

In other words, each logging truck can carry 11 cords of firewood as whole logs. This works out to 545 logging trucks/year of firewood. [Math: 6000 cords/year consumed divided by 11 cords per logging truck].

Given how long it takes for trees to grow and to lay down significant amounts of carbon, this shows clearly how unsustainable this practice is. 

For example, we reviewed a slice from a tree cut on Gabriola recently. This 37 year old Douglas Fir was approximately 35m (115') tall, and it yielded 0.77 cords of wood, or 0.02 cords/year of growth over a lifetime. If you burn 4 cords per year of firewood, you would be using the equivalent of 5 of these trees every year. The diameter at 3m from the ground is 46cm (18 inches).

This works out to 7500 mature trees/year harvested for firewood - JUST FOR LITTLE GABRIOLA ISLAND.

Trees may be carbon neutral - but not in the short run and climate change is something that needs to be addressed now. See the following article for more information on this.

This is one of the reasons why Canada has the fastest rates of deforestation.


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