"In the California compliance market for their cap and trade system, if you develop a forest carbon project, that carbon you quantify and sell as offsets has to be stored for a hundred years," Hurteau explained. "Things like wildfire, insect outbreaks, and drought pose what is called a 'reversal risk' in the carbon accounting world, where that carbon sequestration and storage gets undone by the disturbance.
When planning to preserve or plant forests, you need to account for several things:
* Vulnerability to fire, drought, storm, pests, and other climate hazards that can kill vast tracts of trees.
* Which species of tree are resistant to those threats. This varies by region. See trees that resist fire, drought, wind, snow and ice, flood, and pests.
* Where to plant trees. This is changing, as many areas that used to support forests are drying out and becoming scrubland or desert.
* Prefer natives over imports. We don't need more invasives, we have enough problems there already.
"This creates a situation where you've got offsets that had been sold to help reduce emissions that we put in the atmosphere that are causing the climate to change," said Hurteau. "When a disturbance happens, that carbon is no longer sequestered in the forest and so the idea is that we have the ability and the data to actually quantify what the chance of these disturbances occurring is, and then what effect on any sort of management action could have on reducing that reversal risk."
Ideally, we want to preserve as many living trees as possible. The most effective way to do this is usually to stop cutting down the ones we already have. Replacing lost stands is a second-best solution.
But you can get a bit creative with dead trees too. Burying raw wood puts organic material in the soil. As it rots, it acts like a giant sponge, trapping water. This also slows down the carbon release cycle, and tends to route the carbon up into new plants instead of out into the air. If the forest burns, often a lot of charcoal and ash will be left. This is quite fertile. If you can manage to throw dirt over it, then it stays put rather than washing into rivers where you really don't want it.
Hugelkultur offers many ways of burying wood. Of particular interest to home gardeners, you can dig a small pit and cram it with wood, then plant a tree or vegetables over it. If you don't have room for large swales to trap water, you can make small fishscale swales with wood cores.
"The data and research on wildfire and forest management goes back to the 70s and 80s and we've known that the humans have been changing the climate for decades. We could have done something a lot sooner. As humans, we're real good at dealing with acute problems and not real good with the chronic."
"As ^ imperialist white ^ humans ..."
Being shortsighted and selfish isn't a universal human trait. We've had plenty of cultures with long-term thinking. The Turtle Island rule was: "In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation... even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine." It's just that right now, much of the Earth is overrun by greedy, selfish people who think it's okay to murder everything that moves in order to get what they want. Don't believe it when they say this is natural, normal, human. It is not. And believing that can be fatal to species.