A few months ago we discussed a paper by Law et al that suggests establishing “Strategic Forest Reserves” to increase CO2 sequestration.
There are several arguments against this proposal, such as the likelihood of fire or other disturbances eliminating some or all of the CO2 in the reserves. A new open-access paper in Conservation Science and Practice offers another view: “Identifying trade-offs and opportunities for forest carbon and wildlife using a climate change adaptation lens.” In short, there are resources and values beyond CO2 that ought to be factored in. An article about the paper explains:
“The importance of diverse habitat conditions across the landscape may be increasingly overlooked, especially by the public, as forest carbon storage takes center stage,” said lead author Caitlin Littlefield, a recent research associate in the UVM Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources (RSENR). “As more attention is focused on maximizing forest carbon, we risk unintentionally compromising the long-term sustainability of other objectives, such as maintaining important habitat for at-risk wildlife species.”
On a warming planet, a key challenge natural resource managers face is protecting wildlife while mitigating climate change—as through forest carbon storage—to the greatest extent possible. But in some ecosystems, habitat restoration for imperiled species may be incompatible with maximizing carbon storage. For example, promoting early successional forest conditions does not maximize stand-level carbon storage, whereas uniformly promoting high stocking or mature forest conditions in the name of carbon storage excludes species that require open or young stands. Here, we briefly review the literature regarding carbon and wildlife trade-offs and then explore four case studies from the Northern Forest region of the United States. In each case, human activities have largely dampened the influence of natural disturbances; restoring or emulating these disturbances is typically required for habitat restoration even when doing so equates to less carbon storage at the stand level. We propose that applying a climate adaptation lens can help managers and planners navigate these trade-offs and steer away from maladaptive practices that may ultimately reduce adaptive capacity. Instead, critically evaluating the consequences of stand-level management actions on both carbon and wildlife can then facilitate landscape-scale climate adaptation planning that supports a diversity of habitats alongside opportunities to invest in maximizing forest carbon.