The topic of forest sector carbon balance in connection with climate changes currently has both great scientific and political importance for ecological sustainability on a global scale. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 1-2 ppm per year in the last few decades. The present paper examines the actual and potential role of forest management to deplete atmospheric CO2 concentration, with specific reference to the Italian situation as a case study. Italian carbon emission derived from fossil fuels amounts to 432 Mt/year, of which 65% comes from burning oil. Annual CO2 absorption, estimated by combining the 1985 National Forest Inventory data with selected biomass data, proves to be quite relevant, amounting to more than 10% of the annual Italian CO2 emission. This is a prudent estimate, since no account is taken of the contributions of non-tree vegetation and soil. Current forest management standards are mainly oriented to conservation. Optimisation of forest management specifically purposed also to carbon storage and non-wood products substitution may further enhance the role of Italian forest sector for atmospheric CO2 depletion: in such a view, practical issues (amelioration of existing forest stands; adjustment of harvesting yield to the actual production capacity of forest stands and adjustment of production standards towards high durable wood products; afforestation and tree cropping by means of changes in land use) are addressed within a sustainability framework.
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