Forest cover, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitat: policy review and modeling of tradeoffs among land-use change scenarios

  • Rittenhouse C
  • Rissman A
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Local and regional governments have developed climate action plans with significant implications for forests and wildlife. The effectiveness of climate mitigation through forest carbon sequestration depends on understanding the spatial and temporal dynamics of land-cover and land-use change (LCLUC). Few studies project future LCLUC effects on forest carbon sequestration, and even fewer examine the resulting consequences for forest connectivity and wildlife habitat. First, we asked what forest-relevant climate mitigation strategies have been identified in US state climate mitigation plans, and do they consider implications for wildlife habitat and forest connectivity? Second, for Wisconsin, a partially forested state, what are the effects of three future LCLUC scenarios on afforestation, forest loss, carbon sequestration and storage, forest connectivity, and wildlife habitat? The 35 US states with climate mitigation plans recommended woody biomass for biofuels or energy production (27 states), forest loss prevention (24 states), and afforestation (17 states). Most plans (24 states) anticipated positive wildlife impacts while 7 plans indicated potential negative wildlife impacts from biomass energy; only 3 plans anticipated tradeoffs among afforestation and energy production. A LCLUC model for Wisconsin revealed substantial local variation in potential afforestation and forest loss, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitat across LCLUC scenarios that range from no change in current conditions (Static Forest) to maximum afforestation potential (All Forest). Projected increases in forest cover under the Dynamic Forest scenario equated to 0.41 TgC sequestered per year, or 1.3% of Wisconsin's emissions of 33 TgC per year. Potential increases in core forest area and connectivity would increase habitat for 60 forest-associated species of greatest conservation need, but may decrease habitat for 48 grassland-associated species of greatest conservation need. These results indicate the importance of synergistic evaluation of multiple policy goals and LCLUC scenarios to examine tradeoffs and spatial dynamics of climate change mitigation strategies.

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  • Chadwick D. Rittenhouse

  • Adena R. Rissman

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