Biophysical considerations in forestry for climate protection

Published by Ecoss on

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.