Climatic Change

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 267-293

First online:

The carbon-sequestration potential of a global afforestation program

  • Sten NilssonAffiliated withInternational Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
  • , Wolfgang SchopfhauserAffiliated withInternational Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

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We analyzed the changes in the carbon cycle that could be achieved with a global, largescale afforestation program that is economically, politically, and technically feasible. We estimated that of the areas regarded as suitable for large-scale plantations, only about 345 million ha would actually be available for plantations and agroforestry for the sole purpose of sequestering carbon. The maximum annual rate of carbon fixation (1.48 Gt/yr) would only be achieved 60 years after the establishment of the plantations - 1.14 Gt by above-ground biomass and 0.34 Gt by below-ground biomass. Over the period from 1995 to 2095, a total of 104 Gt of carbon would be sequestered. This is substantially lower than the amount of carbon required to offset current carbon emissions (3.8 Gt/yr) in order to stabilize the carbon content of the atmosphere.