Climate Change, Carbon and the Forests of the Northeast

Download this release in PDF format

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Holden, MA—The Forest Guild’s report "Climate Change, Carbon and the Forests of the Northeast" marks the first time that climate change impacts and carbon policy recommendations have been analyzed and presented around forest management in the Northeast. This report was written by key Forest Guild staff including Robert Perschel, Dr. Alexander Evans and Marcia Summers.

The team spent more than seven months researching, reviewing and selecting data on forestry and climate change from 170 sources including scientific articles from journal including Forest Ecology and Management, Bioscience, and Global Change Biology, as well reports from a wide range of organizations including the Union of Concerned Scientist, US Forest Service, and The Wilderness Society.


There is general consensus that global warming is causing sea levels to rise, the melting of icecaps, and significant worldwide climatic changes. What has not been explored and discussed at in detail is how climate changes are impacting our forests and what forestry techniques can help adapt to and mitigate those effects. Their breadth of knowledge and expertise in forestry allowed the Forest Guild to synthesize the relevant research and put it into this important report with recommendations on forest policy and management in relation to climate change.

"The Forest Guild promotes the most ecological, practical and attainable strategies for use by forest managers," says Bob Perschel, Northeast Region Director of the Forest Guild. "What was surprising for me after reviewing the synopsis of these findings is how close our current techniques match up with this research."

For example, Forest Guild members give trees longer growing times allowing them to sequester more carbon than other shorter term management strategies. The Forest Guild also encourages members to develop forests that have more trees of varying sizes and ages. These structurally complex forests offer more wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, and sequester more carbon than plantation forests.

"People find this report to be a great synthesis of what is out there," adds Perschel. "We put it all in one place and brought the data together in a succinct way. Forest managers often ask me for the best techniques to sequester carbon. We’ve filtered everything down for them in this report."

"Our members are making decisions every day on which tree to cut," says Dr. Alexander Evans, Research Director of the Forest Guild. "This report focuses every day forestry decisions and how this impacts larger climate issues.

"What I saw as I worked on this report, is that this connects all of the dots by addressing important issues such as invasive species that are moving in with climate changes and how to combat that," adds Evans.

Evans joined the Forest Guild in 2006 to direct the research program after finishing his PhD at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. His dissertation examined the invasion of a non-native insect that threatens to remove hemlock trees from eastern forests.

"Climate Change, Carbon, and the Forests of the Northeast" serves as a science-based and practical guide for policymakers and elected officials who are charged with developing policies for overall carbon dioxide reductions. In addition, the report serves as a practical guide for foresters responsible for managing forests to be resilient in the face of climate change and for maximizing carbon sequestration on managed forestlands.


Climate change is altering the forests of the Northeast

Current carbon trading programs and protocols for forestry

Policy recommendations for climate change and carbon storage:

  • Retain the Northeast’s forestlands as forests.
  • Include appropriate forest management projects as legitimate carbon offsets.
  • Include standards for excellent forestry in criteria for earning and trading carbon credits.

The Forest Guild recommends forests are managed for climate change:

  • Foresters must now manage for fundamental changes to environmental conditions.
  • Silviculture is the primary tool for keeping forests healthy.
  • Managers can increase forest resistance, resilience and adaptation by 1) using natural disturbance as a guide; 2) maintaining natural communities; 3) protecting against exotic invaders; 4) preserving soil productivity, 5) maintaining and expanding forest reserves.

Forest management recommendations for carbon storage:

  • Grow trees longer and extend the time between harvests to promote carbon storage.
  • Manage forests for structural complexity by growing trees of varying sizes and ages.
  • Use forest management plans and professional foresters to guide harvests.
  • Choose appropriate thinning techniques to concentrate growth on fewer, larger trees.
  •  Maintain forest reserves for carbon sequestration, genetic diversity, and habitat refuges.

The Forest Guild, headquartered in Santa Fe, New Mexico, promotes ecologically, economically, and socially responsible forestry as a means of sustaining the integrity of forest ecosystems and the human communities dependent upon them. The Guild provides training, policy analysis, and research to foster excellence in stewardship, to support practicing foresters and allied professionals, and to engage a broader community in the challenges of forest conservation and management.



Jennifer Marshall