Timing of carbon emissions from global forest clearance

TitleTiming of carbon emissions from global forest clearance
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsEarles, MJ, Yeh, S, Skog, KE
JournalNature Climate Change
Start Page682
Keywordscarbon and carbon storage, technical reports and journal articles

Land-use change, primarily from conventional agricultural expansion and deforestation, contributes to approximately 17% of global greenhouse-gas emissions. The fate of cleared wood and subsequent carbon storage as wood products, however, has not been consistently estimated, and is largely ignored or oversimplified by most models estimating greenhouse-gas emissions from global land-use conversion. Here, we estimate the fate of cleared wood and timing of atmospheric carbon emissions for 169 countries. We show that 30 years after forest clearance the percentage of carbon stored in wood products and landfills ranges from about 0% to 62% globally. For 90 countries, less than 5% of carbon remains after 30 years, whereas 34 countries have more than 25% in storage. Higher storage rates result primarily from a greater percentage of long-lived products such as wood panels and lumber, and tend to occur in countries with predominantly temperate forests. Alternatively, lower storage rates are associated with a greater fraction of non-merchantable wood and more wood used for energy and paper production, which tend to occur in countries with predominantly tropical forests. Hence, the country and fate of cleared wood can considerably affect the timing of greenhouse-gas emissions from forest clearance.