Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Pacific Northwest Forests Could Store More Carbon, Help Address Greenhouse Issues

Date:
July 3, 2009
Source:
Oregon State University
Summary:
The forests of the Pacific Northwest hold significant potential to increase carbon storage and help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in coming years, a recent study concludes, if they are managed primarily for that purpose through timber harvest reductions and increased rotation ages.

The forests of the Pacific Northwest hold significant potential to increase carbon storage and help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in coming years, a recent study concludes, if they are managed primarily for that purpose through timber harvest reductions and increased rotation ages.

In the complete absence of stand-replacing disturbances – via fire or timber harvest – forests of Oregon and Northern California could theoretically almost double their carbon storage.

Although it isn't realistic to expect an absence of disturbance, the estimates were based on average conditions up until now that include variation in forest biomass, age, climate, disturbances and soil fertility. If all forest stands in this region were just allowed to increase in age by 50 years, their potential to store atmospheric carbon would still increase by 15 percent, the study concluded.

That would be a modest, but not insignificant offset to the nation's carbon budget, scientists say, since this region accounts for 14 percent of the live biomass in the entire United States.

The findings were made by scientists in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, as the result of almost two decades of analysis of 15,000 inventory plots in a large region, through several different projects, as part of the North American Carbon Program. The scientists, who said they have often been asked what the theoretical potential was for storing carbon in these forests, conducted the analysis using inventory data that captured current variation in biomass due to many factors.

"We have known that forests in this region have high productivity, and in recent years we have learned they have a high potential to store large amounts of carbon even at very old ages," said Beverly Law, a professor of forest science at OSU. "The forests west of the Cascade Range are also wetter and less likely to be lost to fire. We suspected these forests might provide more opportunity for carbon storage than has been recognized, and these data support that."

Many economic, ecological and land management issues come into play, the researchers said, and the recent study does not consider what effect increases in temperature or changes in precipitation might have on these lands, or the implications that might have for catastrophic forest fire. But looked at from nothing more than a carbon offset perspective, the optimal approach would be to leave the forests alone, the scientists said.

"Increasing carbon storage in this region might be one contribution to what clearly is a much larger global issue, something that policy makers could consider," Law said. "A lot of land management approaches are now being seen as a short-term bridge to a period where we will be using fewer fossil fuels and addressing carbon issues in other ways."

Largely because of its many forests, researchers say the various "carbon sinks" in Oregon already sequester from 30-50 percent of the emissions caused by use of fossil fuels in the state. That's much better than many other states or the national totals, Law said.

Among the findings of the report:

  • About 65 percent of the live and dead biomass in this region is on public lands, while private lands often have younger age classes of vegetation and less total biomass;
  • Contrary to accepted views on biomass stabilization and decline, biomass is still increasing in stands more than 300 years old in the Coast Range, Sierra Nevada and the West Cascade Range, and in stands more than 600 years old in the Klamath Mountains;
  • The entire study region of Oregon and Northern California, as far south as San Francisco, holds a total live biomass of about two billion tons of carbon – about 14 percent of the biomass in the whole nation;
  • If forests in this region were managed over hundreds of years to maximize carbon sequestration, the carbon in live and dead biomass could theoretically double in the Coast Range, west and east Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada; and triple in the Klamath Mountains.

This research was supported by the Biological and Environmental Research Terrestrial Carbon Program of the U.S. Department of Energy. It was published in Ecological Applications, a professional journal.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Oregon State University. "Pacific Northwest Forests Could Store More Carbon, Help Address Greenhouse Issues." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090702132825.htm>.
Oregon State University. (2009, July 3). Pacific Northwest Forests Could Store More Carbon, Help Address Greenhouse Issues. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090702132825.htm
Oregon State University. "Pacific Northwest Forests Could Store More Carbon, Help Address Greenhouse Issues." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090702132825.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) Rescuers were forced to suspend plans to recover at least two dozen bodies from near the summit of Mount Ontake in central Japan on Tuesday after increased seismic activity raised concern about the possibility of another eruption. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Balloon Descends to Bottom of Croatian Cave

Raw: Balloon Descends to Bottom of Croatian Cave

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) An Austrian balloon pilot has succeeded in taking a balloon deep underground, a feat which he believes is a world first. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bodies Recovered from Japan Volcano Eruption

Bodies Recovered from Japan Volcano Eruption

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Rescue crews finished recovering the remaining 27 bodies from atop Japan's Mount Ontake Monday. At least 31 people were killed Saturday in the mountain's first fatal volcanic event in modern history. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins