A virtual “field test” of forest management carbon offset protocols: the influence of accounting

  • Christopher S. GalikEmail author
  • Megan L. Mobley
  • Daniel deB. Richter
Original Article


Of the greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation options available from U.S. forests and agricultural lands, forest management presents amongst the lowest cost and highest volume opportunities. A number of carbon (C) accounting schemes or protocols have recently emerged to track the mitigation achieved by individual forest management projects. Using 50-year C cycling data from the Calhoun Experimental Forest in South Carolina, USA, C storage is estimated for a hypothetical forest management C offset project operating under seven of these protocols. After 100 years of project implementation, net C sequestration among the seven protocols varies by nearly a full order of magnitude. This variation stems from differences in how individual C pools, baseline, leakage, certainty, and buffers are addressed under each protocol. This in turn translates to a wide variation in the C price required to match the net present value of the non-project, business-as-usual alternative. Collectively, these findings suggest that protocol-specific restrictions or requirements are likely to discount the amount of C that can be claimed in “real world” projects, potentially leading to higher project costs than estimated in previous aggregate national analyses.


Carbon offsets Carbon sequestration Forest management Offset markets 



This analysis was largely supported by the Climate Change Policy Partnership at Duke University. The authors also wish to thank the USDA Forest Service forest managers at Sumter National Forest for their continued support of the long-term soil and ecosystem research being conducted at the Calhoun Experimental Forest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher S. Galik
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Megan L. Mobley
    • 2
  • Daniel deB. Richter
    • 2
  1. 1.Climate Change Policy PartnershipDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Nicholas School of the Environment and University Program in EcologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Duke UniversityDurhamUSA

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