Study Confirms Important Role of Active Forest Management in Carbon Sequestration

Prefaced by Jan Jackson –

The “Poster Child” for managed forests, Oregon works carbon hard and smart while keeping itself green. The following November 2018 study from Science Direct has some interesting things to say it.


• Carbon implications of forest management depend on time and space.
• Intensive management may cause short-term C losses but have long-term C benefits.
• Soil C responses to harvests and residue management are inconsistent.
• Active management reduces risk of wildfire and disturbances that cause C losses.
• Forest markets may deter C loss from forest conversion and land use change.

The Text

“A recent paper, Conclusions and caveats from studies of managed forest carbon budgets, confirms the role that managed forests must play in carbon management. Published in Forest Ecology and Management, Dr. Eric D. Vance of the National Council for Air & Stream Improvement (NCASI), reviewed the literature surrounding carbon impacts from managed forests.

He concluded there is strong evidence to support the long-term carbon benefits of actively managed forests compared to their unmanaged counterparts when harvested biomass is efficiently used for wood products and to replace fossil fuels.

Dr. Vance points out that some have overlooked carbon benefits resulting from the role of active management in reducing susceptibility to wildfire, pests, and disease. Further, active management can provide economic incentives that can deter forest conversion to urban development and other land uses that have substantial and permanent impacts on carbon storage and emissions.

The Numbers

The numbers are striking. Carbon stored in forests and forest products is estimated to offset 10- 20% of total U.S. carbon emissions. Studies in the Great Lakes region showed that increasing forest management intensity over 100 years increased the carbon sink of the forest, and optimized management could further increase carbon sequestration.

Maximum carbon benefits,according to Swedish data, come from “high forest productivity, residue recovery, and efficient use of harvested biomass.” This highlights the deficiency of studies that ignore post-harvest sequestration in wood products and elsewhere, which erroneously conclude that carbon benefits come from decreasing harvest intensity.

Active Management

Active management also decreases the likelihood of extreme emission events such as wildfires. Vance notes that the data shows disturbances, including wildfire, have carbon effects exceeding any that result from management.

Moreover, because wood is much less carbon-intensive than other building materials, using wood to substitute for other materials can provide dramatic carbon benefits. A 2011 U.S. Forest Service study found that for every metric ton of wood products used, 2.1 tons of carbon is removed from the atmosphere—over twice as much.” /Lawson Fite

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Lead photo taken during a Clatskanie River (Columbia County) stream restoration project by Jan Jackson

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