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Mapping carbon accumulation potential from global natural forest regrowth

September 23, 2020
News item image Carbon accumulation rates over the first 30 years of forest growth vary 100-fold around the world

Cook-Patton et al. 2020

Estimating how much carbon is taken up by growing forests, and what the global climate change mitigation potential of reforestation is, has been a topic of much debate for the last few years. This study provides the latest estimate of carbon accumulation over the first 30 years of regrowth of natural forests, at a one-kilometre resolution globally. The authors find that carbon accumulation rates vary over 100-fold around the world, and find that the default rates used by the IPCC may underestimate rates by an average of 32% and ignore the eight-fold variation within ecozones. However, the authors also find that the maximum carbon mitigation potential from reforestation is 11% lower than reported by Griscom et al. 2017, due to the more restrained and realistic assignment of land for potential forest regrowth. The high resolution of this data should allow estimation of the carbon mitigation potential of restoration initiatives from the project to the global scale, allowing activities to be targeted to areas with the highest potential carbon accumulation rates.

Although the carbon mitigation potential of reforestation is great, there are numerous constraints that need to be taken into account when planning individual projects. For example, reforestation often requires taking farmland out of production; this may require dietary shifts towards reduced meat consumption, in order to produce enough food without displacing deforestation elsewhere.

Read the paper here.