Northern Forest Futures Project

Global Carbon Cycles

[image:] Birch logs bundled for firewood

Maintenance of Forest Contribution to Global Carbon Cycles

People rely on forests, directly and indirectly, for a wide range of goods and services. Measures of forest productive capacity are indicators of the ability of forests to sustainability supply goods and services over time. An ongoing focus on maintaining productive capacity of forests can help ensure that the use of forest resources does not impair long term forest productivity even though the goods and services expected from forests may change over time due to social, economic, or technological trends.


Key Findings

Present Day

  • In the United States, the total amount of sequestered carbon in forests is equal to about 27 years of carbon dioxide emissions.
  • The yearly accumulation of carbon in U.S. forests is estimated to offset 13 percent of total annual carbon emissions.
  • In 2007, 2 percent of the energy consumed in the United States came from wood firing by industry (1.3 percent), residential units (0.4 percent), utilities (0.2 percent), and other (0.1 percent) users.
  • Less than 1 percent of the U.S. electric power is generated from wood.

Projected

  • Total carbon sequestered by northern forests is expected to decrease by about 2 percent from 2010 to 2060, primarily the result of reduced forested acreage combined with the slower growth that is typical for mature trees.
  • Aboveground forest biomass is expected to increase by 3.9 percent from 2010 to 2060.
  • Both sequestered forest carbon and aboveground woody biomass are expected to increase in the Midwest and decrease in many eastern States.
  • By 2030, U.S. electrical power generated from all biomass is expected to increase 350 percent over 2010 levels; in the North, biomass will still be used in <6 percent of total electric production.
  • The potential for increased woody biomass use in co-firing (with coal) is highest in States that border the Great Lakes and in the Northeast; the potential increase for co-firing across the region would improve if power plants were upgraded to higher efficiency co-generation status.

FromĀ Future forests of the northern United States, NRS-GTR-151, 2016.

Maps and Figures

Forest carbon sequestration in the North, 2010 to 2060, under storyline A2
Forest carbon sequestration in the North, 2010 to 2060, under storyline A2
[map:] Projected change in sequestered carbon on forest land including soil, 2010 to 2060, in the North under storyline A2
Projected change in sequestered carbon on forest land including soil, 2010 to 2060, in the North under storyline A2
[map:] Co-firing wood with coal for electricity production in the North in 2010 and projected for 2030 under greenhouse gas emissions scenario A2-C.
Co-firing wood with coal for electricity production in the North in 2010 and projected for 2030 under greenhouse gas emissions scenario A2-C.

For additional detail, see Criterion 5: Projections of Forest Contributions to Global Carbon Cycles in the Future forests of the northern United States.