Soils are Earth’s largest terrestrial carbon (C) pool, and their responsiveness to land use and management make them appealing targets for strategies to enhance C sequestration. Numerous studies have identified practices that increase soil C, but their inferences are often based on limited data extrapolated over large areas. Here, we combine 15,000 observations from two national-level databases with remote sensing information to address the impacts of reforestation on the sequestration of C in topsoils (uppermost mineral soil horizons). We quantify C stocks in cultivated, reforesting, and natural forest topsoils; rates of C accumulation in reforesting topsoils; and their contribution to the US forest C sink. Our results indicate that reforestation increases topsoil C storage, and that reforesting lands, currently occupying >500,000 km2 in the United States, will sequester a cumulative 1.3–2.1 Pg C within a century (13–21 Tg C·y−1). Annually, these C gains constitute 10% of the US forest sector C sink and offset 1% of all US greenhouse gas emissions.
Nave, Lucas E.; Domke, Grant M.; Hofmeister, Kathryn L.; Mishra, Umakant; Perry, Charles H.; Walters, Brian F.; Swanston, Christopher W. 2018. Reforestation can sequester two petagrams of carbon in US topsoils in a century. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 292: 201719685-. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1719685115.