Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


Did you know? The most cost-effective way to boost carbon storage is to enhance reforestation efforts, which can increase carbon storage by as much as 20 percent.


Harnessing the power of forests to pull and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is a vital tool for mitigating climate change outcomes.  Preserving and enhancing the ability of vegetation and soils to accumulate carbon, and harnessing the long-term storage potential of wood products, can help stabilize the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere driving climate change. The Forest Service is at the forefront of understanding the role U.S. forests in the global carbon cycle (see Carbon Monitoring page). As stewards of 193 million acres of land and management partners to countless other public and private forest owners, the Forest Service recognizes the unparalleled opportunity and responsibility it has for guiding the country in science-based, climate-smart land management. Forest service engages in this research because:

  • Long-term research demonstrates how important healthy forests are in the global carbon cycle and that different management practices can affect how much and how long they store carbon. Forest Service scientists have identified different tree species suitable as bioenergy sources and are breaking new ground in the scientific understanding of how genes control wood biomass, drought tolerance, and tree architecture with an eye toward increasing our ability to enhance carbon sequestration and climate-adapted forests.
  • While overall, U.S. forests are a net carbon sink, some forests transition to carbon sources due to pests, drought, and wildfire. With an extensive carbon research and monitoring portfolio, Forest Service research reveals how forests, grasslands, wetlands, farms and cities sequester carbon in plants, soils, and wood-based products.
  • Wood products store carbon over long time periods. Expanding the sustainable use of this material is therefore a climate change mitigation tactic. Forests Service scientists assess how much carbon is stored and how many greenhouse gas emissions are avoided over the life cycle of the wood products and compare that to other more energy intensive products to understand the substitution benefits.
  • Sustainable, wood-based technologies provide solutions for a range of 21st century challenges. Forest Service engineers and researchers develop the scientific and technical foundations for transforming low-value timber and wood residues from forest restoration projects and hazardous fuel removal into new valuable products. These new applications for wood 'waste' keep carbon stored over time, generate jobs and marketable products, and offer environmental benefits. For example, scientists developed and patented ways to create biochar Forest Service researchers develop the technical foundation for a variety of wood products such as and other climate and eco-friendly consumer products.

Featured Work

  • To increase carbon mitigation from forests, the Forest Service works on reforesting and improving current forest stands.
  • The Forest Products Laboratory research ways to use products, which can help retain their stored carbon. A few examples of their innovative technologies include cross-laminated timber and cellulose nanocrystals.
  • In forests with standing dead trees that have the potential to fuel fires and hinder forest growth, it can be useful to turn them into biochar, a form of charcoal. 
  • As part of the Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change Project FS researchers are leading on-the-ground, science-manager collaborative research experiments to test and demonstrate climate adaptation measures for forests.
  • Forest Service agroforestry outreach specialists work with partners to assist minority farmers, ranchers, and forest owners. Profitable Farms and Woodlands was prepared by a team from the 1862 and 1890 Land Grant Universities in collaboration with the National Agroforestry Center and provides a practical guide to assist underserved and limited resource small farmers and woodland owners to adopt best management technologies in agroforestry.

Related Publications