US forests and soils store equivalent of 50 years of nation`s CO2 emissions, new estimates find

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Source: ScienceDaily

The first phase of a groundbreaking national assessment estimates that U.S. forests and soils could remove additional quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere as a means to mitigate climate change.

The lower 48 states in the U.S. hypothetically have the potential to store an additional 3-7 billion metric tons of carbon in forests, if agricultural lands were to be used for planting forests. This potential is equivalent to 2 to 4 years of America's current CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.

'Carbon pollution is putting our world -- and our way of life -- in peril,' said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in a keynote speech at the global conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark. 'By restoring ecosystems and protecting certain areas from development, the U.S. can store more carbon in ways that enhance our stewardship of land and natural resources while reducing our contribution to global warming.'

U.S. Geological Survey scientists also found that the conterminous U.S. presently stores 73 billion metric tons of carbon in soils and 17 billion metric tons in forests. This is equivalent to more than 50 years of America's current CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. This shows the need to protect existing carbon stores to prevent additional warming and future harm to ecosystems.

America's forests and soils are currently insufficient in soaking up the nation's accelerating pace of emissions.

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