Insect and Disease Disturbances Correlate With Reduced Carbon Sequestration in Forests of the Contiguous United States
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Frontiers in Forests and Global Change
Major efforts are underway to harness the carbon sequestration capacity of forests to combat global climate change. However, tree damage and death associated with insect and disease disturbance can reduce this carbon sequestration capacity. We quantified average annual changes in live tree carbon accumulation associated with insect and disease disturbances utilizing the most recent (2001 – 2019) remeasurement data from National Forest Inventory plots in the contiguous United States. Forest plots recently impacted by insect disturbance sequestered on average 69% less carbon in live trees than plots with no recent disturbance, and plots recently impacted by disease disturbance sequestered on average 28% less carbon in live trees than plots with no recent disturbance. Nationally, we estimate that carbon sequestration by live trees, defined as the estimated average annual rate of above- and belowground carbon accumulation in live trees (diameter at breast height ≥ 2.54 cm) on forest land, has been reduced by 9.33 teragrams carbon per year (95% confidence interval: 7.11 to 11.58) in forests that have experienced recent insect disturbance and 3.49 teragrams carbon per year (95% confidence interval: 1.30 to 5.70) in forests that have experienced recent disease disturbance, for a total reduction of 12.83 teragrams carbon per year (95% confidence interval: 8.41 to 17.28). Strengthened international trade policies and phytosanitary standards as well as improved forest management have the potential to protect forests and their natural capacity to contribute to climate change mitigation.
Keywordsinsects; diseases; climate change; carbon sequestration; forest disturbance
Quirion, Brendan R.; Domke, Grant M.; Walters, Brian F.; Lovett, Gary M.; Fargione, Joseph E.; Greenwood, Leigh; Serbesoff-King, Kristina; Randall, John M.; Fei, Songlin. 2021. Insect and Disease Disturbances Correlate With Reduced Carbon Sequestration in Forests of the Contiguous United States. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change. 4: 716582. 10 p. https://doi.org/10.3389/ffgc.2021.716582.