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Forest Carbon Inventory

Category: Carbon Sequestration

Well managed forests can sequester carbon and be an important strategy in solving climate change.  Many colleges and universities own and manage forested land and can model sustainable forestry while managing their forests for increased carbon sequestration.  Besides acting as a carbon sink, campus forested lands also provide valuable ecosystem services such as air and water purification.  Forests can reduce erosion and water runoff during heavy rain events.  They provide critical wildlife habitat, contribute aesthetic beauty, and provide a place for relaxation, solace, and restoration.  Importantly, campus forests also provide natural shade and an overall cooling effect.  These are a few important benefits of actively managing campus forests.  

Establishing a baseline forest carbon inventory is an important first step in actively managing campus forests.  A forest carbon inventory involves establishing sample plots, measuring the trees in those plots, and extrapolating the data to estimate stored carbon and annual rates of sequestration throughout the campus’s forested lands.  Alternatively, when campus forests are not well-managed or they are converted into something else, then this could result in overall carbon emissions that would be reflected in the campus’s carbon footprint.  Either way, well-managed campus forests are part of the climate solution and should be treated as such.

Benefits

  • Integrates campus forests into the overall campus carbon footprint and elevates the importance of managing forests sustainably in meeting carbon reduction goals
  • Can be used as a teaching tool for students and community about the multiple carbon and ecosystem benefits of forested landscapes
  • Advances in software tools such as iTree allow campuses to estimate these values while avoiding some of the labor intensive field measurements

Challenges

  • Might require new skills and knowledge and a time commitment to complete the field measurements.
  • May require outside assistance from foresters with experience in forest carbon inventories and field measurements

Impacts

  • GHG Impact

    Moderate

    Counterbalances gross emissions and provides important educational and ecosystem service benefits

  • Economic Impact

    Net Savings

    Savings from avoided carbon offset purchases has potential to surpass the cost of maintenance

  • Feasibility

    Doable

    There are technical aspects of this Solution that can be addressed by working with a trained forester and using software tools such as iTree.

    It is highly recommended to certify campus forests to help ensure that the forest is managed well and value is added.

  • Timeline

    10 years +

    Once the baseline forest carbon inventory has been established, then measurement should reoccur on a 5-year interval.

  • Maintenance

    Moderate

    Creating and updating a forest management plan and doing the field work are essential components of this project. Depending on the size of the campus forest, this can take days to months to complete every five years.

  • Publicity

    That's really cool

    Has potential to garner interest from other institutions and sustainability practitioners while emphasizing the importance of land stewardship in helping to solve climate change and loss of biodiversity.