Maria Janowiak, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, US Forest Service, Houghton, MI.
Chris Swanston, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, US Forest Service, Houghton, MI.
Todd Ontl, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, US Forest Service, Houghton, MI.
This topic page was developed using information from the report Considering Forest and Grassland Carbon in Land Management (WO-GTR-95).
Terrestrial ecosystems, including forests and grasslands, play an important role in sequestering carbon dioxide (CO2), thereby helping to remove it from the atmosphere and lessening the effects of anthropogenic climate change (1-3).
There are a number of greenhouse gas mitigation actions that can help to reduce the effects of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas sources and enhancing carbon sinks in forests and grasslands (4, 5, 3).
Ecosystem carbon is of particular interest because of the importance of CO2 and methane (CH4) as important greenhouse gases, as well as the ability of ecosystem vegetation to absorb and sequester CO2 (1, 6).
Land management actions can also affect the emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O)—another very potent greenhouse gas—although the role of forest and land management is small regarding this compound.
Forests and grasslands are managed for many different objectives and a variety of goods and services, including timber, range, water, recreation, and wildlife.
The amount of carbon absorbed and stored within a particular ecosystem is affected by land use change, management activities, disturbance, the use of harvested wood, and climate.
Carbon may be of interest in developing management plans and options, but rarely is it the primary management objective. These topic pages provide information to support the integration of carbon considerations into land management, particularly in the context of carbon as just one of multiple management objectives.
Sustainable Land Management for Mitigation of and Adaptation to Climate Change
The climate change (CC) caused by increase in atmospheric concentration of CO2 and other Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), can be addressed through adaptation and mitigation strategies.
Adaptation consists of strategies which minimize vulnerability to CC. The objective is to increase resilience of the ecosystems and communities through adoption of specific sustainable land management (SLM) techniques that have adaptive benefits. On the other hand, the goal of mitigation strategies is to enhance soil and vegetation (land) sinks for absorbing atmospheric CO2 and to minimize net emissions.
In the context of the resource-poor and small landholders of the developing countries, adaptation to CC is essential. Adaptation strategies are needed to enhance the positive and reduce the negative effects of CC.
Adaptation is also needed because complete mitigation of CC may never occur. The strategy is to adopt those SLM technologies which have both adaptation and mitigation impacts at multiple scales (household, community, and watershed, national, global).
There are four major areas in the tropics and sub-tropics where adoption of SLM technologies can help to both adapt to and mitigate CC: (i) tropical forest ecosystems (TFEs), (ii) tropical savannah and rangeland ecosystems (TSREs), (iii) world cropland soils, and (iv) salinized and degraded/desertified lands. Nonetheless, adoption of SLM technologies in the temperate regions (North America, Europe, Australia, Japan) is also important to adapting to CC. However, this report focuses on SLM options for developing countries of the tropics and sub-tropics.