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New science estimates carbon storage potential of US lands
Date:12/10/2009

The first phase of a groundbreaking national assessment estimates that U.S. forests and soils could remove additional quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere as a means to mitigate climate change.

The lower 48 states in the U.S. hypothetically have the potential to store an additional 3-7 billion metric tons of carbon in forests, if agricultural lands were to be used for planting forests. This potential is equivalent to 2 to 4 years of America's current CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.

"Carbon pollution is putting our worldand our way of lifein peril," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in a keynote speech at the global conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark. "By restoring ecosystems and protecting certain areas from development, the U.S. can store more carbon in ways that enhance our stewardship of land and natural resources while reducing our contribution to global warming."

U.S. Geological Survey scientists also found that the conterminous U.S. presently stores 73 billion metric tons of carbon in soils and 17 billion metric tons in forests. This is equivalent to more than 50 years of America's current CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. This shows the need to protect existing carbon stores to prevent additional warming and future harm to ecosystems.

America's forests and soils are currently insufficient in soaking up the nation's accelerating pace of emissions. They currently absorb about 30 percent (0.5 billion metric tons of carbon) of the nation's fossil fuel emissions per year (1.6 billion metric tons of carbon). Enhancing the carbon storage capacity of America's and the world's ecosystems is an important tool to reduce carbon emissions and help ecosystems adapt to changing climate conditions.

"The tools the USGS is developingand the technologies behind those toolswill be of great use to communities around the world that are making management decisions on ca
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Contact: Jessica Robertson
jrobertson@usgs.gov
703-648-6624
United States Geological Survey
Source:Eurekalert

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