Special Reviews

Forests and Climate Change: Forcings, Feedbacks, and the Climate Benefits of Forests

Science  13 Jun 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5882, pp. 1444-1449
DOI: 10.1126/science.1155121

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Abstract

The world's forests influence climate through physical, chemical, and biological processes that affect planetary energetics, the hydrologic cycle, and atmospheric composition. These complex and nonlinear forest-atmosphere interactions can dampen or amplify anthropogenic climate change. Tropical, temperate, and boreal reforestation and afforestation attenuate global warming through carbon sequestration. Biogeophysical feedbacks can enhance or diminish this negative climate forcing. Tropical forests mitigate warming through evaporative cooling, but the low albedo of boreal forests is a positive climate forcing. The evaporative effect of temperate forests is unclear. The net climate forcing from these and other processes is not known. Forests are under tremendous pressure from global change. Interdisciplinary science that integrates knowledge of the many interacting climate services of forests with the impacts of global change is necessary to identify and understand as yet unexplored feedbacks in the Earth system and the potential of forests to mitigate climate change.

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