Carbon protection and fire risk reduction: toward a full accounting of forest carbon offsets
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Matthew D. Hurteau; George W. Koch; Bruce A. Hungate
Publication Year: 2008

Cataloging Information

  • Abies spp.
  • biomass
  • C - carbon
  • carbon offsets
  • carbon storage
  • catastrophic fires
  • climate change
  • CO2 - carbon dioxide
  • coniferous forests
  • Douglas-fir
  • fire case histories
  • fire dependent species
  • fire frequency
  • fire hazard reduction
  • fire intensity
  • fire management
  • fire suppression
  • forest management
  • low intensity burns
  • Pinus ponderosa
  • ponderosa pine
  • population density
  • Pseudotsuga menziesii
  • thinning
  • wildfires
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Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 7261
Tall Timbers Record Number: 23084
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Journals-F
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


ANNOTATION: This paper looks into the carbon sequestering abilities of forests and finds that policies currently in place promote avoidable carbon releases and discourage actions that would actually increase long-term carbon storage. When stand-replacing catastrophic fires move through an area, the study found that by thinning the area and prescribed burns would have reduced the carbon dioxide release from live tree biomass by as much as 98%. ABSTRACT: Management of forests for carbon uptake is an important tool in the effort to slow the increase in atmospheric CO2 and global warming. However, some current policies governing forest carbon credits actually promote avoidable CO2 release and punish actions that would increase long-term carbon storage. In fire-prone forests, management that reduces the risk of catastrophic carbon release resulting from stand-replacing wild-fire is considered to be a CO2 source, according to current accounting practices, even though such management may actually increase long-term carbon storage. Examining four of the largest wildfires in the US in 2002, we found that, for forest land that experienced catastrophic stand-replacing fire, prior thinning would have reduced CO2 release from live tree biomass by as much as 98%. Altering carbon accounting practices for forests that have historically experienced frequent, low-severity fire could provide an incentive for forest managers to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire and associated large carbon release events.

Online Link(s):
Hurteau, Matthew D.; Koch, George W.; Hungate, Bruce A. 2008. Carbon protection and fire risk reduction: toward a full accounting of forest carbon offsets. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6(9):493-498.