Potential for carbon sequestration in Canadian forests and agroecosystems

  • Graham Stinson
  • Bill Freedman


The potential for carbon (C) sequestration was examined in selectedCanadian forest settings and prairie agroecosystems under severalmanagement scenarios. A simple C budget model was developed toquantitatively examine C sequestration potential in living biomass of forestecosystems, in associated forest-product C pools, and in displaced fossil-fuelC. A review of previous studies was conducted to examine C sequestrationpotential in prairie agroecosystems. In the forest settings examined, ourwork suggests that substantial C sequestration opportunities can be realizedin the short term through the establishment of protected forest-C reserves.Where stands can be effectively protected from natural disturbance, peaklevels of biomass C storage can exceed that under alternative managementstrategies for 200 years or more. In settings where it is not feasible tomaintain protected forest-C reserves, C sequestration opportunities can berealized through maximum sustained yield management with harvestedbiomass put towards the displacement of fossil fuels. Because there is afinite capacity for C storage in protected forest-C reserves, harvesting forestbiomass and using it to displace the use of fossil fuels, either directlythrough the production of biofuels or indirectly through the production oflong-lived forest products that displace the use of energy-intensive materialssuch as steel or concrete, can provide the greatest opportunity to mitigategreenhouse gas emissions in the long term. In Canadian prairieagroecosystems, modest C sequestration can be realized while enhancingsoil fertility and improving the efficiency of crop production. This can bedone in situations where soil organic C can be enhanced without relianceupon ongoing inputs of nitrogen fertilizer, or where the use of fossil fuelsin agriculture can be reduced. More substantial C offsets can be generatedthrough the production of dedicated energy crops to displace the use offossil fuels. Where afforestation or reconstruction of native prairieecosystems on previously cultivated land is possible, this represents thegreatest opportunity to sequester C on a per unit-area basis. However,these last two strategies involve the removal of land from crop production,and so they are not applicable on as wide a scale as some other Csequestration options which only involve modifications to currentagricultural practices.

Agriculture biomass carbon offsets carbon sequestration forest forestry prairie soil 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

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  • Graham Stinson
  • Bill Freedman

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