Tree planting is being pursued at local, state, national, and international levels as a means to slow greenhouse gas accumulation and climate warming. Yet a growing body of scientific literature suggests that increasing forest cover influences climate by a number of mechanisms other than carbon accumulation. These mechanisms include changing the amount of sunlight absorbed by the Earth's surface and changing rates of evaporation. In some northern regions, for example, increasing forest cover masks snow during spring, which in turn leads to warming even though the forests are storing more carbon. Current policy frameworks such as the Kyoto Protocol do not take into account all the different ways changing land cover influences climate. We will be conducting a series of three meetings, bringing together ecosystem ecologists, climate scientists, and policy experts to synthesize recent work on the different ways land cover change influences climate. In a second step, we plan to draft a policy perspective that reevaluates the role of terrestrial ecosystems in climate policy.
Photo Credit:Patrick J. Endres / AlaskaPhotoGraphics.com