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Forests as carbon sinks, exploring the viability of carbon sequestration

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Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Co-Principal Investigator/Co-Project Leader: 
Department of Project: 
Department of Environmental Conservation
Project Description: 

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming or climate change. One way to reduce the effect of carbon dioxide acting as a greenhouse gas is to accumulate it in trees and forests. Trees naturally take in carbon dioxide as part of growth, and turn it into wood. Trees and forests act as a sink to collect and hold carbon and as a result are thought of as part of the answer to mitigate increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and increased global warming. Roughly 55% of all forests in the United States are privately owned and 92% of these owners are families. In many states like Massachusetts, the proportion of family-owned forestland is much higher. If we want family-owned forestland to be an effective and long-term collector of carbon, we need to know things like:
• What do people want to do with their forest?
• Do they understand the role of their woods in accumulating carbon?
• Would they be willing to have their woods serve as a sink or accumulator of carbon, and if so, under what circumstances?
• Would they need to be paid?
• Would they prefer a tax break?
• How large would such a monetary incentive need to be?
• Would they prefer to work with the government or a private, non-profit group?
• If they agreed to allow their forest to accumulate carbon, would they do it forever, or for a limited period of time?

Answers to these questions and others would help build effective educational and management programs. Though people and families have owned woodlands for a long time in the United States, this issue of carbon is a new one, and more information is needed about what people think, and the decisions they will make. The project will include interviews with private woodland owners to learn more about their thoughts on these subjects as well as surveys and other kinds of tests to compare and contrast different possible scenarios to see which might be most effective. Conversations with various conservation groups and others will be held to reveal ideas they might have on methods to accumulate more carbon on family forestlands. Results of this research will be disseminated to family forest owners and policy makers through articles, meetings, presentations, and the internet.