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FY 03/04


Carbon sequestration programs have gained considerable attention as a mechanism to offset human-induced greenhouse gas emissions and reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. The most prevalent type of carbon sequestration program in use at present, and likely to be used in the near future, is tree planting, especially afforestation (the creation of plantations in areas that had not previously supported trees such as grasslands and croplands) and reforestation (the creation of plantations in areas that had previously supported trees). Much attention has been paid to estimating the net amount of carbon sequestered in vegetation and soils over specific periods of time as a result of tree planting, and to estimating the financial costs of tree planting programs, but little consideration has been given to the non-carbon biogeochemical changes that result from these programs.

The plantations working group will:

  • Evaluate the carbon and financial assumptions behind plantation carbon sequestration programs, including the importance of rotation rates, a full accounting of carbon costs (e.g., planting and site preparation), and how the stored carbon would be safeguarded. This activity will include evaluations of both above- and belowground carbon storage.
  • Examine the scale of the process needed to offset a substantial portion of global fossil fuel emissions (more specifically, about 25% of current annual CO2 emissions from developed countries each year for 50 years, or about 50 Pg C total).
  • Determine and summarize the evidence for other biogeochemical changes that will likely occur. Some of the factors to be evaluated include soil acidification, changes in water fluxes and water-table dynamics, nutrient losses and redistribution, changes in soil fauna and biodiversity, volatile organic carbon emissions, and erosion.

The group will examine four regions (the United States, South America, Australia, and China), with a goal to recommend optimal sequestration measures based on a full consideration of both biogeochemical and economic factors.

The group is composed of individuals from a number of disciplines (forest ecology, biology, biogeochemistry, hydrology, geography, and economics) and a number of institutions:

Robert B. Jackson, William H. Schlesinger and Kathleen Farley (Duke University)
Troy Baisden (Landcare Research, New Zealand)
Damian Barrett (CSIRO Plant Industry, Australia)
Josep Canadell (Global Carbon Project, Australia)
Alex Guenther (National Center for Atmospheric Research)
Marcel Hoosbeek (Wageningen University, the Netherlands)
Esteban Jobbágy (University of Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Steve Pacala (Princeton University)


Jobbágy EG, RB Jackson. 2007. Groundwater and soil chemical changes under phreatophytic tree plantations. Journal of Geophysical Research Biogeosciences, 112, G02013, doi:10.1029/2006JG000246.

Jackson, RB, EG Jobbágy, R Avissar, S Baidya Roy, D Barrett, CW Cook, KA Farley, DC le Maitre, BA McCarl, BC Murray. 2005. Trading water for carbon with biological carbon sequestration. Science 310: 1944-1947.

Farley K.A., E.G. Jobbágy, and R.B. Jackson, 2005, Effects of afforestation on water yield: a global synthesis with implications for policy, Global Change Biology, 11(10), 1565-1576.

Jobbágy E.G., and R.B. Jackson, 2004, Groundwater use and salinization with grassland afforestation, Global Change Biology,10(8), 1299-1312.

Jackson R.B., and W.H. Schlesinger, 2004, Curbing the U.S. carbon deficit, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 101 (45), 15827-15929.