Forest Dynamics in the Anthropocene: Reconciling Satellite and Model-Based Estimates of Forest Carbon Mitigation Potentials
This workshop will convene an interdisciplinary group of scientists and stakeholders to assess the state of forest science in natural climate solutions. A synthesis report will be developed that aims to reconcile remote sensing and land-surface model estimates of the climate mitigation potential of forests. With key stakeholders from universities, national labs, federal agencies, NGOs, and the private sector, participants will engage through presentations and discussions driven by the carbon cycle as a “grand challenge”, new spaceborne observations, and translating science to action.
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.
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More than half of all species live in tropical forests, which process five times as much carbon annually as humans emit from fossil fuel use. Tropical forests sustain societies, safeguard biodiversity, and help regulate the climate system. Their protection is needed to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. As a result, there is an intense focus on slowing forest loss and restoring new forests. But there is a third, neglected piece of the puzzle: What is happening within remaining forests?
In this lecture, Simon L. Lewis, Professor of Global Change Science at the University of Leeds and University College London, describes the role of remaining tropical forests in the contemporary Earth system over the past three decades. Using a pan-tropical network of long- term tropical forest inventory plots tracking over 2 million individual trees in 27 countries, Dr. Lewis demonstrates how intact tropical forests have been a globally significant factor in slowing climate change. However, there are hints that all is not well in the world’s last remote tropical forests, and Dr. Lewis also explores tropical forests’ potential to begin accelerating climate change in the future, a scenario that would impact us all.