Washington, September 9 : Scientists have pointed to forests for carbon storage solutions, as they help stabilize the climate and are abundant sources of other ecological goods and services - such as cleansed air, fertile soil and filtered water.
The scientists, who have determined how much carbon is stored annually in upper Midwest forests, hope their findings will be used to accelerate global discussion about the strategy of managing forests to offset greenhouse gas emissions.
Quantifying the amount of carbon that forests can keep out of the atmosphere is one way of showing forests' value to energy policymakers, they suggested.
"Demonstrating that forests have economic value because they offer carbon offsets might also help citizens have an appropriately broad appreciation for the things that forests do for them beyond providing recreation or wood used for construction or paper pulp," said Peter Curtis, professor and chair of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University.
Curtis is the senior author of a research paper that quantifies annual carbon storage capacity in forests in the upper Great Lakes region and details how historic land use, climate patterns and tree turnover influence forests' carbon storage trends.
The researchers' calculations suggest that carbon storage in Midwestern forests could offset the greenhouse gas emissions of almost two-thirds of nearby populations, and that proper management of forests could sustain or increase their storage capacity for future generations.
Based on measurements taken between 1999 and 2005 at a forest study site in northern Michigan, the scientists have determined that similar upper Midwest forests covering an estimated 40,000 square miles store an average of 1,300 pounds of carbon per acre per year.
Factoring in effects of climate, history and tree type, the researchers developed an equation suggesting that a heavily forested region in northern Michigan could store more than 350,000 tons of carbon per year.
With the area population emitting about 573,000 tons of carbon annually, the forests would sequester approximately 62 percent of the region's human-caused carbon emissions - the equivalent of yearly emissions from about 225,000 cars.
The researchers developed an equation suggesting that a heavily forested region in northern Michigan could store more than 350,000 tons of carbon per year.
The forests would sequester approximately 62 percent of the region's human-caused carbon emissions - the equivalent of yearly emissions from about 225,000 cars.
"Biological carbon storage, mostly in forests, is one of those little wedges along with other ones you might think of, such as increased energy efficiency," said Curtis.
"If we're right, this will give people incentive to hold onto forests and not cut them down," he added.