U.S. forests may hold more carbon than previously thought, study estimates

Washington State Trust forests
DNR-managed State Trust Land forest on Washingtons Olympic Peninsula. Photo: DNR.

Forests of the United States have more capacity than previously estimated to sequester carbon, especially the conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest. The Science Daily website reports (Carbon Sequestration Estimate in US Increased, Barring a Drought) that forests and other terrestrial ecosystems in the lower 48 states can sequester up to 40 percent of the nation’s fossil fuel carbon emissions, a larger amount than previously estimated — unless a drought or other major disturbance occurs.

A research group, including scientists from University of New Hampshire and Oregon State University, concluded that several areas of the Pacific Northwest assimilated carbon during much of the year because of the region’s mild climate. The temperate forests in the eastern U.S. absorbed carbon mainly because of forest regrowth following the abandonment of agricultural lands.

Crop lands were not included because carbon they absorb during growth is soon released when crops are harvested or burned.

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