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Interactive Effects of Environmental Change and Management Strategies on Regional Forest Carbon Emissions

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journal contribution
posted on 19.11.2013, 00:00 by Tara W. Hudiburg, Sebastiaan Luyssaert, Peter E. Thornton, Beverly E. Law
Climate mitigation activities in forests need to be quantified in terms of the long-term effects on forest carbon stocks, accumulation, and emissions. The impacts of future environmental change and bioenergy harvests on regional forest carbon storage have not been quantified. We conducted a comprehensive modeling study and life-cycle assessment of the impacts of projected changes in climate, CO2 concentration, and N deposition, and region-wide forest management policies on regional forest carbon fluxes. By 2100, if current management strategies continue, then the warming and CO2 fertilization effect in the given projections result in a 32–68% increase in net carbon uptake, overshadowing increased carbon emissions from projected increases in fire activity and other forest disturbance factors. To test the response to new harvesting strategies, repeated thinnings were applied in areas susceptible to fire to reduce mortality, and two clear-cut rotations were applied in productive forests to provide biomass for wood products and bioenergy. The management strategies examined here lead to long-term increased carbon emissions over current harvesting practices, although semiarid regions contribute little to the increase. The harvest rates were unsustainable. This comprehensive approach could serve as a foundation for regional place-based assessments of management effects on future carbon sequestration by forests in other locations.