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Potential to Increase Carbon Sequestration with Tree Planting

Photo of Distribution of (A) understocked timberland by ownership in the CONUS, (B) tree density by ownership and all live stocking on timberland in the CONUS (number of trees), (C)  aboveground live tree CO2 density (t ha-1) and mean annual net CO2 flux (t ha-1 yr-1) by ownership and all live tree stocking in the CONUS, and (D) reforestation area and CO2 sequestration potential – based on current tree planting capacity in the US – when increasing stocking on timberland from non-stocked to poorly stocked, medium stocked, or fully stocked in the CONUS. Error bars represent the 95% confidence intervals. Negative estimates indicate net C uptake (i.e., a net removal of C from the atmosphere).Distribution of (A) understocked timberland by ownership in the CONUS, (B) tree density by ownership and all live stocking on timberland in the CONUS (number of trees), (C) aboveground live tree CO2 density (t ha-1) and mean annual net CO2 flux (t ha-1 yr-1) by ownership and all live tree stocking in the CONUS, and (D) reforestation area and CO2 sequestration potential – based on current tree planting capacity in the US – when increasing stocking on timberland from non-stocked to poorly stocked, medium stocked, or fully stocked in the CONUS. Error bars represent the 95% confidence intervals. Negative estimates indicate net C uptake (i.e., a net removal of C from the atmosphere).Snapshot : Almost one-third of Earth’s total land area is comprised of forest, which is also the largest terrestrial carbon sink. A Northern Research Station scientist and his partners have established that fully stocking the Nation’s understocked forests could increase carbon sequestration by about 20 percent.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Domke, Grant M.Oswalt, Sonja
Walters, Brian F. Morin, Randall
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2020
Highlight ID : 1700

Summary

A Northern Research Station scientist led the most in-depth study to date on how increasing the number of forest trees might offset carbon emissions in the United States. To mitigate tree loss and offset carbon emissions, several initiatives are underway to increase tree planting in forests and landscapes that are not technically defined as forests, such as urban forests. To determine carbon emissions offset from approximately 1.38 trillion trees currently growing in the conterminous United States, researchers examined publicly available data from more than 130,000 forested plots from the national forest inventory conducted by the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program. Forests and harvested wood products annually offset the equivalent of more than 14 %of economy-wide carbon dioxide emissions in the Nation, however, almost 33 million hectares of productive forest land are understocked with trees. Fully stocking all understocked productive forest land with trees could increase carbon sequestration by approximately 20 percent. Current efforts by the federal and state governments and private entities result in an estimated 1.2 billion trees planted on forest land annually, and these trees sequester between 16 and 28 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year. These findings suggest that concentrating tree planting on understocked productive forest land may substantially increase carbon sequestration capacity in the United States.