Protecting climate with forests

Robert B. Jackson, James T. Randerson, Josep G. Canadell, Ray G. Anderson, Roni Avissar, Dennis D. Baldocchi, Gordon B. Bonan, Ken Caldeira, Noah S. Diffenbaugh, Christopher B. Field, Bruce A. Hungate, Esteban G. Jobbágy, Lara M. Kueppers, Marcelo D. Nosetto, Diane E. Pataki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

319 Scopus citations


Policies for climate mitigation on land rarely acknowledge biophysical factors, such as reflectivity, evaporation, and surface roughness. Yet such factors can alter temperatures much more than carbon sequestration does, and often in a conflicting way. We outline a framework for examining biophysical factors in mitigation policies and provide some best-practice recommendations based on that framework. Tropical projects - avoided deforestation, forest restoration, and afforestation - provide the greatest climate value, because carbon storage and biophysics align to cool the Earth. In contrast, the climate benefits of carbon storage are often counteracted in boreal and other snow-covered regions, where darker trees trap more heat than snow does. Managers can increase the climate benefit of some forest projects by using more reflective and deciduous species and through urban forestry projects that reduce energy use. Ignoring biophysical interactions could result in millions of dollars being invested in some mitigation projects that provide little climate benefit or, worse, are counter-productive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number044006
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008


  • Afforestation
  • Albedo
  • Avoided deforestation
  • Biophysics
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Climate change
  • Climate policy
  • Forest restoration
  • Global warming
  • Temperate and boreal forests
  • tropical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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