Climate Change Mitigation Research: Research to conserve forests, increase carbon sequestration in forest ecosystems, and provide new energy efficient products and technologies for society.
Carbon Cycle Science in Forest Ecosystems
Forest Service science investigates the pools and fluxes of carbon in various ecosystems throughout the country and around the world. This work includes understanding the carbon cycle as influenced by forest type and age, but also knowing the impacts of forest management practices over time on carbon sequestration and patterns of carbon emissions. By understanding the dynamics of the carbon cycle, decision-makers can better incorporate carbon sequestration into management objectives.
Forest Service research improves the ways carbon pools and fluxes in the environment are estimated. The Forest Service annually provides the official U.S. inventory estimates of forest carbon to the Environmental Protection Agency for reporting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. From these data, numerous tools have been developed, some of which are national standards for carbon accounting in forests, rangelands, and urban ecosystems. Such tools are prerequisite to voluntary or mandatory cap and trade programs. In addition, the recent Resources Planning Act (RPA) Assessment projects future forest carbon stores through models that incorporate a range of future climate scenarios.
Our research results in new methods of estimating emissions of carbon and other key greenhouse gases from wildfires and management practices, by combining data from emissions models, plot data, and satellite data.
Models are being developed to estimate the net effects of biomass removal and its subsequent use (e.g., biofuels, construction materials, etc.) on carbon stocks in the short- and long-term. Such analyses are needed by decision-makers who must consider the impacts of management activities on greenhouse gases (e.g., NEPA requirements and Executive Order 13514)
New Products and Technologies
Forest Service researchers have spent over 100 years studying and developing new products and uses for wood. The Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, recently celebrated its centennial and continues to conduct the research needed to provide society with new “green” renewable solutions and products that meet society’s needs without damaging the environment. For example, Forest Service scientists are studying improved ways to use wood as a green alternative to non-renewable products.
Bioenergy and Biobased Products
The Forest Service Bioenergy and Biobased Products Program coordinates research on renewable woody biomass that can be converted to biofuels and biobased products. This research includes developing woody biomass crops, regenerating and managing forest resources, sustaining and enhancing productivity, harvesting and logistics, and developing competitive products. Through forest biomass utilization, the United States can improve forest health and productivity, reduce fire risk, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, offset fossil fuel use, and provide renewable energy that will enhance U.S. national security. For additional information, see the Forest Service R&D Bioenergy and Biobased Products Strategic Direction 2009-2014.
Economic and social research provides insights into the interactions between policy, carbon, and land use. This research is critical for designing policies, regulations, and incentives that protect our environment while creating new opportunities for economic growth that are socially acceptable. By better understanding the needs and values of society for its forests and grasslands, Forest Service R&D can better inform public and private land managers, and U.S. policymakers, on ways to use our Nation’s forest and grasslands to best serve the public over the long-term. For example, Forest Service researchers are exploring how landowner stewardship programs like the Forest Legacy easement program and regional or voluntary carbon trading programs affect land use decisions made by private landowners.