Scientists at the College of Forestry at Oregon State
University have released the findings of almost two decades of analysis of carbon storage in the area’s forests. Image sourced from Oregon State University
|Forests of the Pacific Northwest have enormous potential for carbon storage. Scientists at the College of Forestry at Oregon State University (OSU) have released the findings of almost two decades of analysis on carbon storage in the area’s forests.
If all forest stands in the region were allowed to increase in age by 50 years, the potential to store atmospheric carbon would increase by an estimated 15%. That would be a modest, but not insignificant offset to the nation’s carbon budget, scientists say, since this region accounts for 14% of the live biomass in the entire United States.
As part of the North American Carbon Program, the scientists analyzed 15,000 inventory plots in the region using inventory data that captured current variation in biomass due to many factors.
“We have known that forests in this region have high productivity, and in recent years we have learned they have a high potential to store large amounts of carbon even at very old ages,” said Beverly Law, a professor of forest science at OSU. “The forests west of the Cascade Range are also wetter and less likely to be lost to fire. We suspected these forests might provide more opportunity for carbon storage than has been recognized, and these data support that.”
The study concludes that, if managed primarily for the purpose of carbon storage, implementing timber harvest reductions and increasing rotation ages along with the absence of disturbances like fires, the forests of Oregon and Northern California could theoretically almost double their carbon storage.The estimates were based on average conditions up until now that include variation in forest biomass, age, climate, disturbances, and soil fertility.
Largely because of its many forests, researchers say the various “carbon sinks” in Oregon already sequester from 30%-50% of the emissions caused by use of fossil fuels in the state. That is much better than many other states or the national totals, Law said.
Among the other findings of the report was that 65% of the live and dead biomass in the region is on public lands, with private lands having less biomass; biomass is increasing in stands more than 3,000 years old and more than 600 years old.
The research was supported by the Biological and Environmental Research Terrestrial Carbon Program of the US Department of Energy.
- Katrice R. Jalbuena