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Prescribed burns may help reduce US carbon footprint
Date:3/17/2010

sts that had been subject to prescribed burns, depending on the vegetation mix and location of the forests. Overall, carbon emissions for the 11 Western states were reduced by an annual average of 14 million metric tons. That is the equivalent of about 0.25 percent of annual U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, or slightly more than the annual carbon dioxide emissions from all fossil fuel sources in some less-populated states, such as Rhode Island or South Dakota.

The authors cautioned, however, that the actual impacts in the Western states would likely be lower. Their study assumed that prescribed burns could be set in all suitable forests, whereas forest managers in reality would be hard-pressed to set so many fires, especially in remote regions or near developments.

New Mexico had the highest average annual reduction (35 percent) because of its forest types, followed by Montana, Arizona, California, and Colorado.

The study notes that prescribed burns could lead to additional air quality benefits. Previous research has indicated that such burns could reduce emissions of pollutants such as fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide.

"While it can be costly to set controlled fires, there is also a cost in leaving forests vulnerable to larger fires," Wiedinmyer says. "More research can help forest managers make better decisions about our forests and climate change."


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Contact: David Hosansky
hosansky@ucar.edu
303-497-8611
National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
Source:Eurekalert

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