Climatic Change

, Volume 124, Issue 1, pp 53–63

Valuing albedo as an ecosystem service: implications for forest management


DOI: 10.1007/s10584-014-1109-0

Cite this article as:
Lutz, D.A. & Howarth, R.B. Climatic Change (2014) 124: 53. doi:10.1007/s10584-014-1109-0


Surface albedo is a property of the Earth’s surface that provides an important climate regulating ecosystem service through the reflection of incoming solar radiation. In some regions, the cooling effect of higher albedo associated with snow-covered bare ground and young forests, compared to mature forests, can exceed the cooling effect of carbon sequestration from forest growth. Properly assigning an economic value to the net benefits of albedo-related shortwave radiative flux is therefore important in order to understand how these two ecosystem services may tradeoff under different scenarios and in different forests. Here we place an economic value on albedo-related shortwave radiation through the use of shadow prices derived from an integrated assessment model (DICE). We then examine the potential impact of this value on optimal forest rotation in the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) in the state of New Hampshire, USA. Our results suggest that valuing albedo can shorten optimal rotation periods significantly compared to scenarios where only timber and carbon are considered. For instance, in spruce-fir stands, very short rotation periods of just 25 years become economically optimal when albedo is considered. We attribute this to the low productivity of the sites within the WMNF as well as the substantial snowfall that occurs in the area. Thus, in high latitude forests where snowfall is common and productivity is low, incorporating the valuation of albedo may lead to relatively short optimal rotation periods if the only ecosystem services considered are timber provisioning and climate regulation.

Supplementary material

10584_2014_1109_Fig5_ESM.gif (572 kb)
Figure S1

A flowchart representing the modeling approach. Beginning in the top-left corner, land cover and geographic information data was collected for the study sites which were used to extract albedo values from two sources: the MODIS MCD43A product (Schaaf et al. 2002) and the MOD10A product (Klein and Stroeve 2002). Yearly radiative forcing values were calculated through measurements of latitude, atmospheric transmittance, the clearness of the atmosphere (KT) as measured by NASA’s Surface meteorology and Solar Energy (ISSCP) project (NASA 2009), and an albedo decay model. Forest growth parameters were generated from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service Inventory and Analysis (FIA) database of stand information and carbon storage data was provided by the United States Department of Energy’s Carbon On Line Estimator (COLE) 1605 (b) reports (Proctor et al. 2005). (GIF 571 kb)

10584_2014_1109_MOESM1_ESM.tiff (193 kb)
High Resolution Image (TIFF 192 kb)
10584_2014_1109_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (17 kb)
Figure S2Shadow prices and net benefits (undiscounted) from albedo and carbon for a spruce-fir stand from the WMNF study site with a 25 year harvest rotation period. Albedo revenue increases after clear-cuts, whereas carbon revenue decreases significantly due to losses associated with harvest. (PDF 17 kb)
10584_2014_1109_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (42 kb)
Table S1Biological parameters associated with each of the four simulated forest stand types. Parameter values for each of the four simulated forest types (PDF 42 kb)
10584_2014_1109_MOESM4_ESM.doc (570 kb)
ESM 1(DOC 570 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Studies ProgramDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA