Hurricane impacts on US forest carbon sequestration

Author(s): McNulty, Steven G.

  • Date: 2002
  • Source: Environmental Pollution 116 (2002) S17-S24
  • Station ID: --


Recent focus has been given to US forests as a sink for increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Current estimates of US Forest carbon sequestration average approximately 20 Tg (i.e. 1012 g) year. However, predictions of forest carbon sequestration often do not include the influence of hurricanes on forest carbon storage. Intense hurricanes occur two out of three years across the eastern US. A single storm can convert the equivalcnt of 10% of the total annual carbon sequestrated by US forests into dead and downed biomass. Given that forests require at least 15 years to recover from a severe storm, a large amount of forest carbon is lost either directly (through biomass destruction) or indirectly (through lost carbon sequestration capacity) due to hurricanes. Only 15% of the total carbon in destroyed timber is salvaged following a major hurricane. The remainder of the carbon is left to decompose and eventually return to the atmosphere. Short-term increases in forest productivity due to increased nutrient inputs from detritus are not fully compensated by reduced stem stocking, and the recovery time needed to recover leaf area. Therefore, hurricanes are a significant factor in reducing short-term carbon storage in US forests.

Publication Download Options

Rate this Publication- Click to Give Feedback

Pristine Version Available

An uncaptured or "pristine" version of this publication is available. It has not been subjected to OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and therefore does not have any errors in the text. However it is a larger file size and some people may experience long download times. The "pristine" version of this publication is available here:

Request Publication:

You can order print copies of our publications through our Publication Ordering System. Make a note of the publication you wish to request, and visit our Publication Order Site.

Publication Notes:

We recommend that you print this page and attach it to the printout of the article to retain the full citation information.

This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain. Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat. During the capture process some typographical errors may occur. Please contact the SRS Webmaster, if you notice any errors which make this publication unuseable.

To view this article get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader.