Projecting U.S. forest management, market, and carbon sequestration responses to a high-impact climate scenario

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Abstract

The impact of climate change on forest ecosystems remains uncertain, with wide variation in potential climate impacts across different radiative forcing scenarios and global circulation models, as well as potential variation in forest productivity impacts across species and regions. This study uses an empirical forest composition model to estimate the impact of climate factors (temperature and precipitation) and other environmental parameters on forest productivity for 94 forest species across the conterminous United States. The composition model is linked to a dynamic optimization model of the U.S. forestry sector to quantify economic impacts of a high warming scenario (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5) under six alternative climate projections and two socioeconomic scenarios. Results suggest that forest market impacts and consumer impacts could range from relatively large losses (−$2.6 billion) to moderate gain ($0.2 billion) per year across climate scenarios. Temperature-induced higher mortality and lower productivity for some forest types and scenarios, coupled with increasing economic demands for forest products, result in forest inventory losses by end of century relative to the current climate baseline (3%–23%). Lower inventories and reduced carbon sequestration capacity result in additional economic losses of up to approximately $4.1 billion per year. However, our results also highlight important adaptation mechanisms, such forest type changes and shifts in regional mill capacity that could reduce the impact of high impact climate scenarios.

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Baker, J. S., Van Houtven, G., Phelan, J., Latta, G., Clark, C. M., Austin, K. G., … Martinich, J. (2023). Projecting U.S. forest management, market, and carbon sequestration responses to a high-impact climate scenario. Forest Policy and Economics, 147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forpol.2022.102898

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