Forest environmental investments and implications for climate change mitigation.

Research paper by Ralph J RJ Alig, Lucas S LS Bair

Indexed on: 11 Jul '06Published on: 11 Jul '06Published in: Journal of environmental quality


Forest environmental conditions are affected by climate change, but investments in forest environmental quality can be used as part of the climate change mitigation strategy. A key question involving the potential use of forests to store more carbon as part of climate change mitigation is the impact of forest investments on the timing and quantity of forest volumes that affect carbon storage. Using an economic optimization model, we project levels of U.S. forest volumes as indicators of carbon storage for a wide range of private forest investment scenarios. Results show that economic opportunities exist to further intensify timber management on some hectares and reduce the average timber rotation length such that the national volume of standing timber stocks could be reduced relative to projections reflecting historical trends. The national amount of timber volume is projected to increase over the next 50 yr, but then is projected to decline if private owners follow an economic optimization path, such as with more forest type conversions and shorter timber rotations. With perfect foresight, future forest investments can affect current timber harvest levels, with intertemporal linkages based on adjustments through markets. Forest investments that boost regenerated timber yields per hectare would act to enhance ecosystem services (e.g., forest carbon storage) if they are related to the rate of growth and extent of growing stock inventory.