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Biophysical considerations in forestry for climate protection

Authors: 
Anderson RG, JG Canadell, JT Randerson, RB Jackson, BA Hungate, DD Baldocchi, GA Ban-Weiss, GB Bonan, K Caldeira, L Cao, NS Diffenbaugh, KR Gurney, LM Kueppers, BE Law, S Luyssaert, TL O'Halloran
Year: 
2011
Journal: 
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Journal Volume/Pages: 
9:174-182

Forestry, including afforestation, reforestation, avoided deforestation, and forest management, can sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide and, hence, has been proposed as a strategy to mitigate climate change. Forestry, however, also influences land surface properties, including albedo (the amount of sunlight reflected back to space), surface roughness, and evapotranspiration, all of which affect the amount and forms of energy transfer to the atmosphere. In some circumstances, these biophysical feedbacks can warm the climate locally, counteracting the effects of carbon sequestration on global mean temperature and reducing or eliminating the net value of climate change mitigation projects. In this paper, we review published and emerging research that suggests ways in which forestry projects can reduce unintended consequences associated with biophysical interactions, and highlight knowledge gaps in managing forests for climate protection. Lastly, we describe several ways to incorporate biophysical effects into frameworks that use forests as a climate protection strategy.

In a Nutshell

Forestry is becoming an important part of both voluntary carbon markets and government efforts to mitigate climate change.
Forests have biophysical effects that can enhance or counteract the potential for carbon sequestration to reduce climate warming, and these effects can differ greatly depending on the spatial scales under consideration.
Consideration of both biogeochemical and biophysical effects of forests is needed to design projects that maximize climate benefits. Broad best practices can be applied now but the science in support of such an integrated approach is still developing.

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