labs_title

Caldeira Lab Research:Land Plants, Carbon, and Climate

Biophysical considerations in forestry for climate protection

Ray G Anderson, Josep G Canadell, James T Randerson, Robert B Jackson, Bruce A Hungate, Dennis D Baldocchi, George A Ban-Weiss, Gordon B Bonan, Ken Caldeira, Long Cao, Noah S Diffenbaugh, Kevin R Gurney, Lara M Kueppers, Beverly E Law, Sebastiaan Luyssaert, and Thomas L O’Halloran

Forestry can lead to increased sequestration of carbon dioxide and therefore has been proposed as a method to mitigate climate change. Yet forests have biophysical effects that can counteract their potential to reduce climate warming. Here we review research suggesting ways in which forestry projects can counteract the consequences associated with biophysical interactions, and highlight knowledge gaps in managing forests for climate protection.


Anderson, Ray G., J. Canadell, J. Randerson, R. Jackson, B. Hungate, D. Baldocchi, G. Ban-Weiss, G. Bonan, K. Caldeira, L. Cao, N. Diffenbaugh, K. Gurney, L. Kueppers, B. Law, S. Luyssaert, and T. O’Halloran. Biophysical considerations in forestry for climate protection. Front Ecol Environ 2010; doi:10.1890/090179

Fig. 1:Effects of forest and non-forest ecosystems on surface energy fluxes in tropical, temperate winter, temperate summer, boreal winter, and boreal summer scenarios. Forests have greater heat fluxes than non-forest ecosystems, resulting from their greater surface roughness. Tropical rainforests have large latent heat fluxes that result in the development of clouds, which reflect solar radiation back to space. Temperate and boreal forests have major seasonal variations in energy fluxes and can reduce seasonal cooling by masking snow.

Abstract

Forestry – including afforestation (the planting of trees on land where they have not recently existed), reforestation, avoided deforestation, and forest management – can lead to increased sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide and has therefore been proposed as a strategy to mitigate climate change. However, forestry also influences land-surface properties, including albedo (the fraction of incident 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 result in local climate warming, thereby counteracting the effects of carbon sequestration on global mean temperature and reducing or eliminating the net value of climate-change mitigation projects. Here, we review published and emerging research that suggests ways in which forestry projects can counteract the consequences associated with biophysical interactions, and highlight knowledge gaps in managing forests for climate protection. We also outline several ways in which biophysical effects can be incorporated into frameworks that use the maintenance of forests as a climate protection strategy.