Publication Details

Planting trees to mitigate climate change: Policy incentives could lead to increased carbon sequestration

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Watts, Andrea ; Kline, Jeff ; Haight, Robert

Year Published

2021

Publication

Science Findings 236. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 5 p.

Abstract

The 741 million acres of forestland in the United States play a role in mitigating the effects of climate change by sequestering nearly 16 percent of the atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions produced annually in our country. Reducing the conversion of forestland to other uses and planting even more trees, whether through afforestation or reforestation, would increase the nation’s carbon storage capacity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has several incentive programs to accomplish these goals.

Researchers with the USDA Forest Service and Portland State University modeled various scenarios to determine how carbon sequestration would increase if the agency increased its financial investment in these tree planting and forest conservation programs. They also modeled how a 10-percent reduction in the area burned by stand-replacing wildfires could affect carbon sequestration. Because increasing levels of atmospheric carbon has a social cost, they calculated the monetary value of the carbon sequestrated.

The research team found that afforestation and reforestation policies yielded the greatest return in carbon sequestration. By 2050, 469 teragrams (Tg) of carbon dioxide equivalent per year (CO2 eq/yr) could be sequestered compared to a baseline scenario of 323 Tg CO2 eq/yr. They estimated the cost of expanding afforestation and reforestation programs at $6.5 billion, far less than the estimated $93.6 billion in monetary benefits that the increased carbon sequestration from expanding these programs was projected to yield.

Citation

Watts, Andrea; Kline, Jeff; Haight, Robert. 2021. Planting trees to mitigate climate change: Policy incentives could lead to increased carbon sequestration. Science Findings 236. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 5 p.

Last updated on: February 8, 2021