Sequestering Carbon in Natural Forests

WithC.S. Binkley, M. J. Apps, R. K. Dixon, P. E. Kauppi, L.-O. Nilsson

Closed forests cover about 3 billion hectares, or 20% of the world’s total land area (excluding Antarctica). Forest plantations comprise less than 1% of this area. Natural forests range from the intensively managed ones of Central Europe and Scandinavia to the wild boreal forests of Russia and Canada and the deep jungles and dry forests of the tropics. Numerous techniques—largely drawn from the ordinary repertoire of forest management—are available to enhance our ability of these forests to sequester and store C. Although the costs of sequestering additional C in these forests may be quite low (even in comparison with intensive plantation options), increased use of natural forests for this purpose raises a host of concerns about competing forest uses, biological risk, and the capacity to actually measure the incremental C sequestered. The problems of poverty, expanding populations, weak institutions, incomplete scientific knowledge, and climatic change itself will challenge the world’s capacity to use natural forests as part of a CO2 control strategy.