YOU get all kinds of chat on all manner of forestry-related subjects on the Forest Machine Operators Blog.

To take an example, one member recently posed the question: "Does anyone else find it hard to believe that a peat bog is a better carbon sink than a forest plantation? Given the growth rate of trees compared to moss? I'm thinking about places where they clear the woods to return the land to bog.

"I get that some of the harvested trees will go as fuel and the carbon is released, but a lot will be for timber and pulp which will have the carbon locked away for tens or even hundreds of years."

READ MORE: Bites from the blog: On a learning curve

Forestry Journal: Charlie Rayson Charlie Rayson

An interesting subject for discussion, which generated a lot of replies, among them: "A 'proper' peat bog, which is constantly wetted, will be able to absorb more CO2 than a woodland, purely because it can continue to sequester indefinitely (as long as it's kept wet) through a constant cycle of sphagnum moss (and others) growing, dying back, being pushed underwater by the next generation of sphagnum, etc.

Forestry Journal: Dan Lewis Dan Lewis

"Through it not decomposing fully, and turning into peat rather than soil/compost, that CO2 is locked away. Where it can't beat wood/forest is in use beyond the site, e.g. peat can only sequester where it is left as peat, whereas wood products can replace steel/concrete and sequester for a finite amount of time."

The original poster responded: "Aye, but what I find hard to believe is that the moss absorbs more CO2 per acre than trees. Just by looking at the volume of timber and leaves. I've read reports that say it's more, I just find it hard to believe."

Forestry Journal: David Forbes David Forbes

The other member suggested it was "a different type of absorption vs replacement" and calculated 1 m3 of peat is sequestering 370 kg CO2, adding: "Also, they can store that carbon indefinitely, as long as they're not allowed to dry out, whereas trees will only ever absorb as much as they grow above ground.

"The way to make a woodland absorb more CO2, and lock it away indefinitely, is to grow, harvest, then throw those logs into a peat bog. That way, they won't degrade, and you've got the carbon sequestration from the peat, coupled with the carbon sequestered in the timber, locked away forever (think bog oak)."

Forestry Journal: Jamie Churchill Jamie Churchill

When comparing rates of absorption per year, he said trees would win "hands down", but went on: "It's the whole 'wider' picture thing. Sitka spruce sequesters 175 kg C per m3.

So, that carbon is 'locked away' for however long that spruce remains solid wood. In a building that could be 100–200 years.

Forestry Journal: Jim Keogh Jim Keogh

"However, when the time comes for that spruce to finally rot down, the carbon is released back into the atmosphere. Where peat 'wins', is, as long as it's kept wet/as a bog, is it can sequester for tens of thousands of years.

"So, that carbon in the peat can be best described as 'locked away', whereas with spruce, that carbon is more aptly described as 'pushed further into the future'."

Forestry Journal: Kieran Wall Kieran Wall

Looking at the wider picture, however, shouldn't the use of timber as opposed to something like concrete and its huge carbon footprint be factored into considerations?

The member responded: "Yes, but again, peat bogs can pretty much last indefinitely. So, there'll always be a trade-off. Really, the two shouldn't be played off against each other, as they are approaching the issue from two different angles.

Forestry Journal: Matthew Rawsthorne Matthew Rawsthorne

"In my view, peat can be described as carbon sequestration/capture, as the CO2 captured can last indefinitely, as long as the bog is there, pretty much, whereas wood/timber should be viewed as carbon replacement, rather than sequestration."

Further down the comments it was suggestion that, rather than peat or trees, the most successful of carbon sinks is hemp, which greatly improves soil structure, fertility and carbon content.

Forestry Journal: Oliver Paiba Oliver Paiba

"But don't worry," members were told. "This hemp they grow is called 'Hippie's Disappointment' as you cannot get stoned on it."

Another post to attract a lot of comment was shared from the Forestry Contracting Association's Facebook page, on which the FCA had shared a story from a contractor.

He'd sold up in the summer and, with time on his hands, had doing some research. He told the FCA: "Contractors are dropping like flies. This industry is f****d, what the f****s going on?"

Forestry Journal: Pertthu Kaihua Pertthu Kaihua

The FCA agreed with his finding that contractors are leaving the industry in larger numbers than have been seen in the past and asked for feedback on the major issues behind the exodus.

Forestry Journal: Reece Holland Reece Holland

"Pricks doing the job at stupid prices, simple as that," was one response. "If we stuck together as a union we would set the prices and there would be plenty of work for everyone. The amount of money we lay out for machines and training and all HSE changes every other week, it does make you feel like packing up. Contractors will always be at the bottom of the ladder until we stand up for ourselves."

A contractor from Gloucester echoed the sentiment: "If you don't stand up for yourselves now, it will never happen. Fuel prices are through the roof. The kit a cutter has to have all adds up. So who's making the big wages? A dickhead straight out of uni on big wages with a nice truck who knows absolutely jack shit about forestry work, just there to make his or her mark."

Forestry Journal: Richard Huggett Richard Huggett

Others had similar opinions. One said: "Rates haven't went up in 1- plus year. Uni grads are doing jobs they have no experience in and making decisions we need to follow that are stupid."

Forestry Journal: Robin Parsons Robin Parsons

Another added: "I had to phone a manager's boss few weeks back because he didn’t believe me about a job. He ended up shouting and bawling, but I rang his boss and he went away with his tail between his legs. It’s that mentality right there that pisses me off, thinking he knows it all and has the right to shout and bawl at me even though he's only six months out of uni."

One former contractor claimed to be getting paid more to work in Lidl, with pay rises every year. "Never looked back," he added.

After 30 years in the industry, one contractor laid the blame on "too many agents dictating the prices they can afford to pay contractors after paying over the odds to get the parcels". 

Forestry Journal: Ryan Willis Ryan Willis

He said: "Then take out their cut (God forbid they lose their chunk of change for sitting behind a desk pushing paper) and, after working out haulage costs etc, whatever is left is then what they offer to pay contractors, playing them against each other, when it's the contractor (imo) who is the most important link in the supply chain, with the highest investment and operating criteria and costs, working long hours to be lucky to break even or make a pittance.

"Everything is run the wrong way. The contractor should be the one invited to look at a job, quote the rate needed to do the job, then work out other costs, then you have the purchase price standing for the timber... but it will never happen as the agents (leeches) will always set the prices to favour their cut and don't care if they run a good contractor into bankruptcy.

Forestry Journal: Victor Diaz Victor Diaz

"Contractors are basically taken for granted and not appreciated for doing their job right. Much the same as with the truck driver shortages, money is one issue, but the main issue is long hours and not much quality of family life and having to do all this with little quality of services provided. In both forestry and haulage, you have to make do with whatever little you have, but you never see an agent in a clapped-out motor, living in a caravan on-site. They have the margin with no overheads, so can stop in the best of accommodation as they go from site to site.

"I said 30-plus years ago that things needed to change, but they've got worse, with rising costs and overheads, but rates mostly still the same.

"Take your workforce for granted and treat them unfairly and you're surprised they are leaving the industry? The problem is not contractors. The current situation is caused by the people above them that use them instead of utilising them and ensuring they are content with all the effort they put in."

Forestry Journal: Will Aherne Will Aherne

Another former contractor weighed in: "I got out for a few reasons, but the main one is that government foresters have no common sense. Some high-paid paper shufflers keep coming up with bright ideas that keep throttling the industry, making the UK harder to compete financially and our lives a misery. But the foresters, with no real experience, want it all done by their interpretation of the book.

"Unfortunately, it’s not just the forestry industry that has this problem. Good luck changing it!"

Good luck indeed. For more, visit the Forest Machine Operators Blog group on Facebook.