How much carbon do Minnesota’s forests store?

After spending time in the woods on a hike or a hunt, think about how much biomass our forests have. Forests are a tremendous sink of biomass and carbon: they grab carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it for functions like tree growth.

Forests across the world sequester about 16% of all carbon dioxide emitted every year. So part of the carbon emitted from driving our cars and heating our homes are in turn used by forests. We can also manage our forests in different ways to sequester more carbon.

The Forest Carbon Xplorer

The University of Minnesota, USDA Forest Service-Northern Research Station, and plan-it GEO recently developed an app that

The Forest Carbon Xplorer web browser app works for smartphone, tablet, and desktop use.
The Forest Carbon Xplorer web browser app works for smartphones, tablets, and desktops.

allows users to “surf” forest carbon depending on their area of interest. Users may select a number of methods to obtain forest carbon:

  • By using a device’s GPS location
  • By county (providing maps and tables)
  • By drawing a fixed radius of any size on the map

The Forest Carbon Xplorer app allows users to discover carbon stocks using various queries. The tool is a mobile-friendly map application designed for smartphones, tablets and desktop use.

How much carbon do Minnesota’s forests have?

The amount of biomass in Minnesota’s forests numbers 495 million tons, equal to almost one trillion pounds of forest biomass. Assuming that half of biomass is carbon, almost 500 billion pounds of carbon are stored in Minnesota’s forests. These values have increased by about 6 percent over the past five years.

What does all that carbon mean? The amount of carbon stored in Minnesota’s forests is equal to the amount of C02 emissions from almost 100 billion gallons of gasoline consumed or the home energy use in 75 million homes in a given year.

Which Minnesota counties have the most forest carbon?

One of the features of the Forest Carbon Xplorer is the ability to find out forest carbon information through

The six counties with the most forest carbon across Minnesota.
The six counties with the most forest carbon across Minnesota.

searching by county. No doubt, total carbon is related to the size of a county in addition to the proportion of a county that is forested. Exploring the app indicates that St. Louis County is the clear front-runner, followed by Koochiching, Itasca, and Lake counties.

The carbon in our forests is not just found in the trees, but in many attributes. These attributes include live trees (both aboveground and belowground), dead wood (both standing and downed), understory vegetation, forest floor, and soil carbon. The amount of carbon found in these pools can be visualized in the app.

So how much carbon is found in your forest? Check out the Forest Carbon Xplorer to find out.

Matt Russell

Matt works on issues related to forest ecosystem health. He’s based in St. Paul.

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