Implications of Climate Change for Conservation, Restoration and Management of National Forest Lands

Climate Change and National Forests

Climate change is coming to a national forest near you. How much forests will be altered as a result of climate change largely depends on how much humans reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases and how quickly. The effects of climate change on national forest lands will also depend in part on how forest management responds to these threats.

Climate Change and Forest Ecosystems

Topics explored begin with those relating to forests as ecosystem forests and carbon; forests and climate change; drought, insects, and fire; and soil and water—and continue with those more directly relating to forest management—wood products, thinning, fuels reduction and fire, restoration, and strategies for conserving biological diversity.

Forests Make Important Contributions

Forests will be affected by climate change, but they may also help to mitigate it. Forests influence the rate and extent of climate change by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in wood and soils or by releasing CO2 to the atmosphere. CO2 is released whenever land is converted to nonforest uses or disturbed by logging, burning, or outbreaks of insects and disease. All living forests both absorb and release CO2, and the relative balance between the two processes determines whether a forest is a source or sink of CO2. Forests are not the solution to climate change, but they can make important contributions.