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Forest Dynamics in the Anthropocene: Reconciling Satellite and Model-Based Estimates of Forest Carbon Mitigation Potentials

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Session Description: 

Natural climate solutions are becoming increasingly important for climate mitigation as a technique to remove and reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. A variety of land-management strategies contribute to natural climate solutions including forest management, conservation agriculture, soil management and biochar. Reforestation and afforestation are possibly the most effective solutions in terms of the amount of carbon forests can remove from the atmosphere, but they are also one of the more controversial solutions. Planting trees not only means storing carbon, but alters hydrology, energy balance, habitat for biodiversity, and impacts food security. In addition, the ‘permanence’ of carbon stored in forests is affected by climate change, wildfires, changing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, and air pollution. These controversial trade-offs have been the topic of numerous studies over the past two decades. In recent years, new remote sensing observations and land-surface modeling activities have attempted to better quantify the climate mitigation potential of reforestation and afforestation.

This AGCI workshop will bring together interdisciplinary experts in these fields, to build off recent developments in 1) the global availability of ground and remote-sensing data on forest structure and biomass, 2) advances in the representation of demography and forest structure in land-surface models and risks to persistence, and 3) the urgency in understanding the role of forests in climate mitigation as a ‘grand challenge’ in carbon cycle research. A workshop report will be released to inform the UNFCCC COP26.

A key theme of the workshop will be to reconcile remote sensing and land-surface modeling based estimates of current and future forest carbon stocks, highlighting uncertainties, areas of disagreement, and trade-offs for a range of climate and ecosystem services. Stakeholder perspectives from federal agencies, international organizations and the private sector will set the stage for deliberations.

Workshop Topic (s): 
  • Carbon Cycle
  • Ecosystems
  • Land-Use/Land-Cover Change