Climatic Change

, Volume 118, Issue 2, pp 245–257 | Cite as

Carbon sequestration via wood harvest and storage: An assessment of its harvest potential

  • Ning ZengEmail author
  • Anthony W. King
  • Ben Zaitchik
  • Stan D. Wullschleger
  • Jay Gregg
  • Shaoqiang Wang
  • Dan Kirk-Davidoff


A carbon sequestration strategy has recently been proposed in which a forest is actively managed, and a fraction of the wood is selectively harvested and stored to prevent decomposition. The forest serves as a ‘carbon scrubber’ or ‘carbon remover’ that provides continuous sequestration (negative emissions). Earlier estimates of the theoretical potential of wood harvest and storage (WHS) based on coarse wood production rates were 10 ± 5 GtC y−1. Starting from this physical limit, here we apply a number of practical constraints: (1) land not available due to agriculture; (2) forest set aside as protected areas, assuming 50 % in the tropics and 20 % in temperate and boreal forests; (3) forests difficult to access due to steep terrain; (4) wood use for other purposes such as timber and paper. This ‘top-down’ approach yields a WHS potential 2.8 GtC y−1. Alternatively, a ‘bottom-up’ approach, assuming more efficient wood use without increasing harvest, finds 0.1–0.5 GtC y−1 available for carbon sequestration. We suggest a range of 1–3 GtC y−1 carbon sequestration potential if major effort is made to expand managed forests and/or to increase harvest intensity. The implementation of such a scheme at our estimated lower value of 1 GtC y−1 would imply a doubling of the current world wood harvest rate. This can be achieved by harvesting wood at a moderate harvesting intensity of 1.2 tC ha−1 y−1, over a forest area of 8 Mkm2 (800 Mha). To achieve the higher value of 3 GtC y−1, forests need to be managed this way on half of the world’s forested land, or on a smaller area but with higher harvest intensity. We recommend WHS be considered part of the portfolio of climate mitigation and adaptation options that needs further research.


Carbon Sequestration Climate Mitigation Theoretical Potential Carbon Sequestration Potential Fossil Fuel Emission 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are grateful for discussion and critiques from Gregg Marland, Lianhong Gu, Brian Cook, Peter Read, Ross Salawitch, Steve Smith, Cesar Izzaraulde, Dalia Abbas, Richard Birdsey, Linda Heath, Yude Pan, Ben Bond-Lamberty, Tris West, Brent Sohngen, Tony Janetos, Fritz Scholz, George Hurtt, Ruth DeFries, Thomas Schelling, Freeman Dyson, Paul Crutzen, Graham Stinson, Neil Sampson, Ruben Lubowski, Alexander Golub, Matt Pearson, Roger Sedjo, Steven Hamburg, and Ian Noble. This work resulted in part from a workshop entitled “Ecological carbon sequestration via wood burial and storage: A strategy for climate mitigation and adaptation”, held at the Heinz Center, Washington DC during September 9–10, 2010. This work was supported by NSF grant AGS-1129088, and NOAA grant NA10OAR4310248. AWK and SDW acknowledge support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle, LLC, for the DOE under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ning Zeng
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anthony W. King
    • 2
  • Ben Zaitchik
    • 3
  • Stan D. Wullschleger
    • 2
  • Jay Gregg
    • 4
  • Shaoqiang Wang
    • 5
  • Dan Kirk-Davidoff
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science and Earth System Science Interdisciplinary CenterUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Earth and Planetary SciencesJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable EnergyTechnical University of DenmarkRoskildeDenmark
  5. 5.Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)BeijingChina
  6. 6.Climate and Weather ServicesMDA Information Systems Inc.GaithersburgUSA

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