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Projected social costs of CO2 emissions from forest losses far exceed the sequestration benefits of forest gains under global change

Marcos-Martinez, Raymundo, Bryan, Brett A., Schwabe, Kurt A., Connor, Jeffery D., Law, Elizabeth A., Nolan, Martin, Sánchez, José J.
Ecosystem services 2019 pp. 100935
asymmetry, carbon, carbon dioxide, climate, deforestation, ecosystem services, forests, global change, greenhouse gas emissions, models, reforestation, stakeholders, Australia
Forest cover gains and losses occur in response to complex environmental and anthropogenic pressures. Yet the impact of forest gains and losses on the provision of ecosystem services differs markedly. Here we investigate the social costs of potential forest carbon change in Australia’s intensive agricultural region from 2015 to 2050 using spatial forest cover change and forest carbon models combined with climate and socioeconomic projections. More than 24000 possible scenarios were used to identify the trend and lower and upper bounds of forest cover/carbon change. Net deforestation (3.5 million hectares, Mha) under the lower bound forest cover (LBFC) projection was around one-third less than net reforestation (4.8 Mha) under the upper bound forest cover (UBFC) projection by 2030. However, the CO2 emissions (1.3 Gigatons of CO2, GtCO2) from deforestation were more than double the sequestration (0.5 GtCO2) from reforestation. The social costs (up to 134 billion dollars) of the LBFC were almost five times the benefits of the UBFC (up to 28 billion dollars). The asymmetry decreased over time but persisted to 2050. This shows the markedly different social costs of potential forest carbon losses and gains under global change, evidence which can be useful to policymakers, stakeholders, and practitioners.