Carbon sequestration potential and financial trade-offs associated with loblolly pine and cherrybark oak management in Mississippi

Nepal, Prakash; Grala, Robert K.; Grebner, Donald L.
September 2010
Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table;2010, Vol. 2010 Issue 3, Special section p1
Academic Journal
Forests can be a part of diversified portfolio of mitigative strategies focused on decreasing atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) because they can absorb CO2 at relatively low cost and for long time periods. However, managing forests for increased carbon sequestration can potentially conflict with management for timber and result in financial tradeoffs. The magnitude of these trade-offs is still unclear. This research examined the potential for increasing amounts of sequestered carbon through management of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) and cherrybark oak (Quercus pagoda Raf.) stands in Mississippi and determined associated financial trade-offs. Physical quantities of carbon and revenues were determined for stands managed only for timber, only for carbon, and simultaneously for timber and carbon under selected thinning and harvest age scenarios. Results indicated a potential for sequestering up to 1,188 metric tons of CO2 per hectare (Mt CO2/ha) by a 80-year cherrybark oak stand and up to 963 Mt CO2/ha by a 50-year loblolly pine stand and wood products harvested from these stands. Revenues from timber production and joint management for timber and carbon were maximized with harvest ages of 50 and 35 years for cherrybark oak and loblolly pine, respectively. At these harvest ages, the cherrybark oak stand sequestered 38% less CO2, whereas the loblolly pine stand sequestered 30% less CO2 when compared to harvest ages maximizing physical quantities of CO2. Managing stands only for increased CO2 sequestration decreased revenues from timber by up to 31% for cherrybark oak stand and up to 12% for loblolly pine stand. The results suggested that increasing CO2 sequestration by dedicated management of loblolly pine and cherrybark oak stands can be a viable strategy in Mississippi. However, at the analyzed carbon price of $3.77/Mt CO2 e, landowners are more likely to enroll in shorter carbon contracts because it would not require them to change thinning and harvest regimes for timber production. At higher carbon prices, landowners are more likely to select longer carbon contracts because greater revenues from carbon payments will increase landowner overall return. These findings will be helpful to forest landowners considering participation in carbon sequestration programs and policy makers who can use this information in developing future carbon programs.


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