I thought the graphics from this research article did a good job of illustrating the role of forests and forestry in climate change mitigation.
Even if there is a lot of uncertainty in the assumptions and modeling, forest management is likely where the greatest opportunities are for land management to contribute to climate mitigation. (Note that fire management is a relatively minor contributor.) (AFOLU – the new acronym of the day – is Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use.)
Thus, ecosystems have the potential for large additional climate mitigation by combining enhanced land sinks with reduced emissions… We describe and quantify 20 discrete mitigation options (referred to hereafter as “pathways”) within the AFOLU sector … We refer to these terrestrial conservation, restoration, and improved practices pathways, which include safeguards for food, fiber, and habitat, as “natural climate solutions” (NCS).
Improved forest management (i.e., Natural Forest Management and Improved Plantations pathways) offers large and cost-effective mitigation opportunities, many of which could be implemented rapidly without changes in land use or tenure. While some activities can be implemented without reducing wood yield (e.g., reduced-impact logging), other activities (e.g., extended harvest cycles) would result in reduced near-term yields. This shortfall can be met by implementing the Reforestation pathway, which includes new commercial plantations. The Improved Plantations pathway ultimately increases wood yields by extending rotation lengths from the optimum for economic profits to the optimum for wood yield.
Work remains to better constrain uncertainty of NCS mitigation estimates. Nevertheless, existing knowledge reported here provides a robust basis for immediate global action to improve ecosystem stewardship as a major solution to climate change.
Unfortunately, the major role of forests in NCS mitigation strategies is pretty minor with regard to overall climate change mitigation needs. (I.e. planting a trillion trees won’t do the trick; we need significant emissions reductions.)