Estimating the carbon budget and maximizing future carbon uptake for a temperate forest region in the U.S.
1 Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology and Management, University of Wisconsin, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, WI, 53706, USA
2 Present address: Department of Botany, University of Wyoming, 1000 E. University Ave, Laramie, WY, 82071, USA
Carbon Balance and Management 2012, 7:6 doi:10.1186/1750-0680-7-6Published: 19 June 2012
Forests of the Midwest U.S. provide numerous ecosystem services. Two of these, carbon sequestration and wood production, are often portrayed as conflicting. Currently, carbon management and biofuel policies are being developed to reduce atmospheric CO2 and national dependence on foreign oil, and increase carbon storage in ecosystems. However, the biological and industrial forest carbon cycles are rarely studied in a whole-system structure. The forest system carbon balance is the difference between the biological (net ecosystem production) and industrial (net emissions from forest industry) forest carbon cycles, but to date this critical whole system analysis is lacking. This study presents a model of the forest system, uses it to compute the carbon balance, and outlines a methodology to maximize future carbon uptake in a managed forest region.
We used a coupled forest ecosystem process and forest products life cycle inventory model for a regional temperate forest in the Midwestern U.S., and found the net system carbon balance for this 615,000 ha forest was positive (2.29 t C ha-1 yr-1). The industrial carbon budget was typically less than 10% of the biological system annually, and averaged averaged 0.082 t C ha-1 yr-1. Net C uptake over the next 100-years increased by 22% or 0.33 t C ha-1 yr-1 relative to the current harvest rate in the study region under the optized harvest regime.
The forest’s biological ecosystem current and future carbon uptake capacity is largely determined by forest harvest practices that occurred over a century ago, but we show an optimized harvesting strategy would increase future carbon sequestration, or wood production, by 20-30%, reduce long transportation chain emissions, and maintain many desirable stand structural attributes that are correlated to biodiversity. Our results for this forest region suggest that increasing harvest over the next 100 years increases the strength of the carbon sink, and that carbon sequestration and wood production are not conflicting for this particular forest ecosystem. The optimal harvest strategy found here may not be the same for all forests, but the methodology is applicable anywhere sufficient forest inventory data exist.