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Contact information
If you have questions, contact:
Kristen Tomaszewski
608-266-5202

Statewide Forest Action Plan Part 1: AssessmentCriterion 5: Maintenance of forest contribution to global carbon cycles

Major conclusions

The area of the Assessment focusing on maintenance of forest contribution global carbon cycles draws two major conclusions based on the data.

1) Incorporating climate science and monitoring information into landscape management activities would help adapt forests to new and changing conditions, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change and meet changing demands for forest products and other ecosystem services

In general, maintaining forested lands translates directly to maintaining carbon stocks and forest management that increases forest area or growing stock volume increases forest carbon. There may be potential conflicts, however, between carbon stock goals, traditional forest utilization and increased biomass utilization as demand for alternative energy sources grow.

The Wisconsin Council on Forestry [exit DNR] developed biomass harvest guidelines [exit DNR] in 2008 that include ongoing monitoring to assess the effectiveness of the retention standards. Supporting those evaluations, updating the guidelines as needed and requiring licensees who operate bioenergy plants to follow the biomass harvest guidelines would be important precautions to preserving soil carbon in forests.

2) There is considerable opportunity for storing additional carbon in Wisconsin's forests

Silvicultural practices that increase the rate of growth, hold stands to a higher maximum tree size class, increase basal area, extend rotations, promote structural retention, increase forest area and other techniques can store additional carbon. There are further opportunities to increase carbon storage after harvest through conversion of material to long-lived wood products.

  • Historically, Wisconsin held 57 percent more above ground carbon in live trees than the state does today.
  • Wisconsin's forests are a net carbon sink. The carbon sequestered contributes to lowering the atmospheric balance of carbon dioxide by 27.7 million tons per year, with a net balance of 8.4 million tons sequestered after emissions are included.
  • Wisconsin's current 14 percent urban forest canopy avoids 50,000 tons of carbon emissions from fossil-fueled power plants annually but expanding the canopy to a recommended 40 percent could nearly triple that reduction.
  • For every ton of above ground carbon, there are approximately 1.88 tons of below ground carbon and so a complete and healthy ecosystem stores more carbon than live trees alone. This is a critical concept that must be taken into consideration when evaluating management alternatives for impact on carbon emission or sequestration.
  • At present, Wisconsin's carbon pools are concentrated in northern counties that are more densely forested. Different forest types vary in their carbon storage potential. Oak/hickory and maple/beech types dominate the proportion of total carbon stored within the state but spruce/fir stores the most carbon per acre.
Last revised: Thursday September 24 2015