MFRC report: Assessing Forestation Opportunities for Carbon Sequestration in Minnesota

In January 2010 the Minnesota Forest Resources Council and the University of Minnesota Department of Forest Resources released a new report on the costs and feasibility of adding a million acres of new forest land in Minnesota.  The executive summary is below.  Download the complete report here: Assessing forestation opportunities for carbon sequestration in Minnesota.

Assessing forestation opportunities for carbon sequestration in Minnesota: Executive Summary

As directed by the 2009 Minnesota Legislature, this study assesses the feasibility of creating one million acres of new forests to increase CO2 sequestration.  Nearly 7.6 million acres of the state’s current croplands and grasslands were dominated by forests prior to European settlement and subsequently deforested, but likely would support productive forests now.

We used hypothetical scenarios to illustrate a variety of ways in which landowners could replace income from current land uses by managing forest on their lands.  The amount of land likely to be forested, however, varies with level of total payment (see Figures 2-4).  At annual payments of $30 per acre, approximately 34,000 acres could be forested that are currently in private cropland and grassland.  With annual payments of $88, approximately 407,000 acres could be forested.  A carbon market with a price of $30/ton of CO2 sequestered would generate approximately 616,711 new acres with a net sequestration of 44 million tons of CO2 over 100 years. Nearly 132,000 cords of roundwood from newly forested lands would be available annually at this level of payment. To obtain one million acres of new forest would require annual payments totaling approximately $114 per acre.

Current demand for seedlings in Minnesota is already high relative to in-state production capacity.  The maximum number of acres that could be planted based solely on current seedling production capacity in Minnesota is approximately 23,000 acres per year.  Given current demand for seedlings to reforest public and private forestland that has been harvested for timber, establishing forests for carbon sequestration likely will require higher seedling production by Minnesota producers, greater reliance on out-of-state producers, or both.

We offer these recommendations.

  • Combine existing programs and funding to meet multiple environmental goals. For example, establishing riparian buffers adjacent to water bodies that exceed TMDL thresholds could simultaneously improve waters quality and sequester carbon.
  • “Stack” policy incentives with new and existing markets to maximize forestation efforts. Adding publicly funded incentives for carbon sequestration to payments from existing markets and emerging markets may significantly increase forestation.
  • Direct the DNR to plant northern white cedar, white spruce, balsam fir, and/or black spruce, the native tree species with the highest potential for long-term carbon sequestration, on 5,000 acres of suitable DNR-administered land by 2025.
  • Direct the DNR to help private tree nursery businesses become more competitive with out-of-state seedling producers.
  • Identify ways to improve the way we manage and use forest resources to increase carbon sequestration.  A comprehensive analysis of the carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation benefits associated with existing forest resource management and use should reveal ways to improve sequestration.

Download the complete report here: Assessing forestation opportunities for carbon sequestration in Minnesota.

The University of Minnesota Extension Forestry team.

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  1. Why would not Eastern White Pine Be the top recommended species for long term carbon sequestration to the DNR?

    1. Thanks for your comment Harold. If you look at the full report, you’ll see that MFRC emphasizes the forest types in MN with the highest average carbon stocks (including total tree carbon and soil carbon pools). White pine and pine-oak-ash forest types also have large C stocks, but not as high relative to the other forest types mentioned (e.g., northern white-cedar and white spruce).

    2. In the Carbon Report, I observed the species’ carbon sequestering chart, showing above ground and below ground carbon sequestering. 1.)How is this estimated, and what agency did the research? 2.) Is part of the answer that there are many more acres that historically grew/can suitably grow the superior species mentioned than grew/can grow white pine?
      Finally, I saw data claiming that white pine as a species is only slightly bested by tulip poplar for producing the maximum growth in height and fiber during a particular length of time on a suitable site,over all other species.
      Is question 2.) again part of the “suitable site” answer here?

    3. Thanks for your questions Harold. I believe data were analyzed from the Forest Inventory and Analysis program from agencies including the US Forest Service and Minnesota DNR. My sense of their analysis is that they used the current FIA data measured in Minnesota as a snapshot of forest carbon sequestration patterns. -Matt