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Forest Carbon

Carbon storage

The storage of carbon in forested landscapes—in the form of plant and soil biomass—is a crucial component of climate change mitigation. Carbon pulled from the atmosphere by growing plants and then held in forest ecosystems is not free to contribute to the warming effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas. Appalachian forests provide this service in great abundance, and net carbon storage has increased over recent decades in most Appalachian regions as forests have matured and increased in landscape extent. However, the rate of this increase is declining as the dynamics of these processes change with changing land use patterns. As older forests continue to age, the rate of new carbon sequestration naturally slows. These forests, though, continue to store massive amounts of carbon.

Urbanization and surface mining in different Appalachian regions are major factors driving recent patterns of forest loss. Future economic and land use scenarios suggest that, in coming decades, forest losses from urbanization and surface mining are likely to outstrip regional gains from forest growth—at which point some major Appalachian regions could become carbon sources rather than sinks. Such losses may be mitigated by changes in urban development policy and planning, significant new forest restoration efforts on mined sites, changing energy markets and policy, and timber markets that enhance the value of forest lands.

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Data Atlas

The storage of carbon in the form of plant and soil biomass is a crucial component of climate change mitigation.

The storage of carbon in the form of plant and soil biomass is a crucial component of climate change mitigation.

The capacity of ecosystems to provide services such as carbon storage, clean water, and forest products is determined in part by ecosystem dynamics over time.

Descriptions of landscape cover types and fragmentation yield rich information about how forest, rural, and urban areas interface and mix.

Last modified: 
12/03/2015 - 14:45