Land use strategies to mitigate climate change in carbon dense temperate forests

Greg (et al)

As part of our ongoing discussion of what may, or may not, work to attain Green House Gas emission reduction via the State’s Cap and Trade program – please review this study.
There are strategies and issues in the Cap and Trade program that need review and fixing. Please see my comments – below the Study material

Land use strategies to mitigate climate change in carbon dense temperate forests

Beverly E. Law, Tara W. Hudiburg, Logan T. Berner, Jeffrey J. Kent, Polly C. Buotte and Mark E. Harmon
PNAS March 19, 2018. 201720064; published ahead of print March 19, 2018.

Edited by William H. Schlesinger, Duke University, Durham, NC, and approved January 22, 2018 (received for review November 16, 2017)


Regional quantification of feasibility and effectiveness of forest strategies to mitigate climate change should integrate observations and mechanistic ecosystem process models with future climate, CO2, disturbances from fire, and management. Here, we demonstrate this approach in a high biomass region, and found that reforestation, afforestation, lengthened harvest cycles on private lands, and restricting harvest on public lands increased net ecosystem carbon balance by 56% by 2100, with the latter two actions contributing the most. Forest sector emissions tracked with our life cycle assessment model decreased by 17%, partially meeting emissions reduction goals. Harvest residue bioenergy use did not reduce short-term emissions. Cobenefits include increased water availability and biodiversity of forest species. Our improved analysis framework can be used in other temperate regions.


Strategies to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions through forestry activities have been proposed, but ecosystem process-based integration of climate change, enhanced CO2, disturbance from fire, and management actions at regional scales are extremely limited. Here, we examine the relative merits of afforestation, reforestation, management changes, and harvest residue bioenergy use in the Pacific Northwest. This region represents some of the highest carbon density forests in the world, which can store carbon in trees for 800 y or more. Oregon’s net ecosystem carbon balance (NECB) was equivalent to 72% of total emissions in 2011–2015. By 2100, simulations show increased net carbon uptake with little change in wildfires. Reforestation, afforestation, lengthened harvest cycles on private lands, and restricting harvest on public lands increase NECB 56% by 2100, with the latter two actions contributing the most. Resultant cobenefits included water availability and biodiversity, primarily from increased forest area, age, and species diversity. Converting 127,000 ha of irrigated grass crops to native forests could decrease irrigation demand by 233 billion m3 y 1. Utilizing harvest residues for bioenergy production instead of leaving them in forests to decompose increased emissions in the short-term (50 y), reducing mitigation effectiveness. Increasing forest carbon on public lands reduced emissions compared with storage in wood products because the residence time is more than twice that of wood products. Hence, temperate forests with high carbon densities and lower vulnerability to mortality have substantial potential for reducing forest sector emissions. Our analysis framework provides a template for assessments in other temperate regions.

Continued – at the Web – site (link). My issues – below.



I have been doing forestry issues for a long time. I am not opposed to logging. It is just a matter of intensity – how much, where, and in what period of time.

You have indicated your goal – by use of the Cap and Trade program – is to recover our forests to pre-European entry.To put it in perspective, since European intervention in our forests (speaking of California – but I am sure this is true for the whole country) – forest inventories have been reduced by a factor of 90% to 95% (by volume). That is a very large number (and it is becoming a world wide number). Europe was completely forested at one time. On the west coast – with the loss of our forests there has been a similar depletion of salmonid numbers. Now with climate change issues – it is pretty obvious that forests are a significant factor. Increasing the biomass is the issue. This can be done by cutting less than growth. And – as the attached link to a University of Oregon Study – other strategies (e.g. lengthening harvest cycles, etc.) can have a significant effect.

Note: Our coastal temperate forests grow faster than other forests in the US – due to factors of soils, nutrients, rainfall, and temperature. (however, they are not growing fast enough).

One of the major factors in forest policy (Forest Practice Rules in California) is that industry controls the politics. And – the historic management that brought the forest inventory to its current low point – is now a factor that industry considers in their cash flow management. How do you keep the cash coming in when inventories are so low? For them cutting less than growth or lengthening cutting cycles is a cash flow problem.

Cap and Trade is the plan that is supposed to solve this. However, I do have a problem with the Cap and Trade methodology as it is now existing. Though the program is well meaning – and as the rules are applied now – it will not work. The reasons why it will not work are – the following:

Starting from the “Common Practice ” inventory baseline (which the California Forest Practice Rules allow – which can be less than 50 sq. ft. of basal area per acre of standing inventory) – they will allow for credits for carbon retained above that base line – based on growth estimates from modeling projects out 100 years. Each approved and registered credit is worth about $10 per metric ton on the market – today.

Starting from such a low base line is one problem. The use of the modeling for growth and yield projections is another problem. The modeling is adjustable and can show anything you want it to show.

The California Air Resources Board relies on robust verification and assumes that the checks that are in place will assure compliance – Verification of compliance to the rules and check actual growth at many plots will correct for any discrepancies. And – if the carbon is not there – the beneficiary will be charged back for that amount of carbon not produced.

My issues are: 1) starting from such a low base (the common practice baseline ) is inappropriate and not always representative off current conditions, 2) the CARB protocols indicate that the base and practice bottom line should not be below – a business as usual standard (they are not applying this protocol), 3) the CARB protocols indicate external constraints must be considered for baseline considerations (external constraints are rules, obligations, mandated planning projects, and easements) – (CARB is not following this protocol). 4) the program is only enacted by the legislature until 2030 – what happens if the program ends then, ends at another time, or the carbon market falls apart?, 5) the levels of retention of carbon that the program is attaining is low – more forest mass needs to be retained to make a difference (remember the carbon credits sold are mitigations for GHGs emitted by other industries). This last consideration puts the whole program in the realm of CEQA – mitigations for other industrial GHG emissions should be an open process that allows the public and other responsible agency meaningful participation in the process. The process is not open and is not accessible.

I am hoping we can fix some of these issues.

Alan Levine