Study finds actively managed forests store more carbon

Research was conducted at two sites in northern New Hampshire in similar forests to the Great Lakes

A study of carbon retention in both trees and the soil beneath them led by Dartmouth College demonstrated the value mixed wood forests bring in capturing carbon. The study’s findings were published in Forest Ecology and Management in October and emphasized the value of carbon captured in the soil.

It was conducted on Dartmouth’s Alder Brook and Merrill Brook forest in Northern New Hampshire (where species are similar to the Northern Lake States). They have experienced two or three harvests since the 1950’s. These managed forests retain 118,500 kilograms of carbon per hectare (or 2.47 acres), according to the study.

“To put these carbon stocks in another context, the authors estimate that a 40-acre forest (1/16 of a square mile) in northern New Hampshire contains about the same amount of carbon as 53,000 automobile tanks of gasoline (which contains about 634 grams per liter of carbon),” according to a statement about the study from Dartmouth. “Of the total carbon in the forests at the two sites, about 60 percent was stored in the trees and 40 percent in the soil.”

“Our forests are our friends in terms of limiting atmospheric carbon dioxide,” says co-author Matthew Ayres, a professor of biological sciences and chair of the graduate program in ecology, evolution, ecosystems and society at Dartmouth. “This study shows that our northeastern forests can provide sustainable products such as lumber, pulp and fuel while still serving as reservoirs for lots of carbon, but the details depend on how forests are managed, and we need to keep getting better at that.”

Authors of the study included: Fiona Jevon and Matthew Ayres of Dartmouth College, Anthony W. D’Amato, the University of Vermont, Christopher W. Woodall, the USDA Forest Service in Durham, N.H., and Jaclyn Hatala Matthews at Wellesley College.

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