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Individual Highlight

Forest restoration efforts yield climate benefits

Photo of A stand of grand fir and Douglas-fir in eastern Oregon. Dave Powell, USDA Forest ServiceA stand of grand fir and Douglas-fir in eastern Oregon. Dave Powell, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : In Douglas-fir and true-fir dominated dry mixed-conifer forests of the northwest, implementing selective harvest and surface fuel treatments generates greater climate benefits than no treatment, when accounting for in- and out-of-forest effects on greenhouse gases.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Fried, Jeremy S. 
Research Location : Northwestern United States
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 665


What affect do forest restoration efforts have on forest carbon levels To find out, scientists used the Forest Vegetation Simulator to simulate the silvicultural prescriptions typically used by foresters seeking to restore forest health. Thirteen different prescriptions were applied to several hundred forest inventory and analysis plots that comprise a statistically representative sample of current conditions in Douglas-fir and true-fir forests in the northwestern U.S. The resulting forest stands were projected forward for 32 years under four scenarios: no wildfires, and one wildfire at one of three times since treatment: 1, 16, or 32 years. Over this short period, absent wildfire, treatments did not produce net climate benefits. However, with fire return intervals of 20 or 50 years, implementing the most effective treatments generated considerable climate benefits when considering carbon stored in the forest, carbon in forest products and landfills, and substitution benefits from the use of wood and woody biomass generated energy. On about half of the forest area where treatment would be effective, sales of merchantable and energy wood could more than offset the costs of implementing treatments, provided prescriptions were not restricted by size limits of trees that can be harvested while implementing effective treatments.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • Humboldt State University
  • University of Montana

Program Areas