Forest Carbon in the Rockies: Past and Future
Michael G. Ryan, Senior Research Scientist, NREL, Colorado State University & Emeritus Scientist, Rocky Mountain Research Station. Mike.Ryan@colostate.edu
Forests store much carbon in their wood and soil. Annual additions to forest carbon in the US take up 10-15% of the CO2 from our fossil fuel use, mostly because US forests are regrowing after clearing for agriculture and past harvests. When regrowth stops, these annual additions and CO2 offset will also stop. In the West, the largest challenge for forest carbon is to retain current stocks when fire, bark beetles, and drought are killing many trees, and high intensity fires change vegetation to grass and shrublands in montane forests. Fuel reduction in frequent fire forests may help retain montane forests, but greatly reduces forest carbon stores. Because montane forests are denser now than is sustainable, they have more forest carbon than is sustainable. Over the longer term, fuel reduction may retain more forest carbon by retaining forests at a cost of large current forest carbon loss.
Mike Ryan is a Senior Research Scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Lab and the
Graduate Degree Program in Ecology at Colorado State University and an Emeritus Research
Ecologist for the USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins,
Colorado. His research focuses on landscape studies of the forest carbon cycle, and
the role of whole tree physiology in forest carbon balance and productivity. He has
studied the role of
respiration in regulating productivity, the mechanism of tree size-related productivity decline, mechanisms of drought tolerance and mortality, carbon allocation, the role of source versus sink control of plant carbon balance, and forest carbon recovery from fire and bark beetle mortality. Mike studied at the University of Pittsburgh, Northern Arizona University, and Oregon State University.