Connecticut Inside Investigator

Study: New England forests could capture 488M more tons of carbon

Dec. 23, 2022

The last few years have seen states, including here in Connecticut, adopt ambitious green energy and emission-cutting goals, as concerns over climate change increase.

Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has indicated that New England is warming faster than any other region in the country. But a new study also indicates that New England has a unique opportunity to tackle this issue by focusing on the region’s many forests.

The study was performed by researchers at the New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF), The Nature Conservancy, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, and Quantified Ventures. It was published in the 2022 issue of Forests, an international scientific journal on forests and forestry.

In the study, researchers modeled growth and yield predictions for the region’s Acadian forests, a large swath of forest lands covering Northwest Connecticut, Western Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and most of Maine up into lower regions of Quebec, Canada. The models used NEFF’s “Exemplary Forests” standards which “prioritize providing habitat for native wildlife while producing timber, storing carbon, and maintaining other forest values.”

According to the study’s results, the Exemplary Forests standards could increase the region’s ability to store carbon emissions by as much as 488 million tons, about 23% of the emissions created by the six New England states.

“That’s the most interesting thing about climate-smart forestry — that we’re focusing on both carbon and timber outcomes,” Ethan Belair, Natural Climate Solutions Forester with The Nature Conservancy and a co-author on the study said in a statement. “When managed sustainably, we think New England forests can simultaneously provide substantial climate mitigation and a reliable timber supply, which is good news for an evolving forest industry in New England.”

The research also indicated that private landowners, who hold more than 70% of the Acadian forests, could profit from implementing these standards “by combining income from timber management, sales of carbon credits, and philanthropic funding of conservation easements.” It would take an estimated 15 years to turn this profit.

NEFF and its partners recently received $30 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Climate-Smart Commodities program to help private landowners implement these forestry practices.