Southern Forest Science in Support of a Low Carbon Economy

Planted loblolly stand, about 35 years old, managed with multiple thinnings and prescribed burns. Photo by David Stephens, courtesy of

Research from the Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) on biomass for energy and the capacity of southern forests to offset the  greenhouse gas emissions that have led to global warming are featured in the special issue of the journal Forest Science published in October.

Often called the “wood basket of the Nation,” the forests of the South are so productive that, even though they make up only two percent of forest cover worldwide, they produce more roundwood and pulpwood than any other individual state or country in the world. This presents the opportunity for the private landowners who own most of southern forestland to play a unique part in addressing the effects of climate change, both by sequestering carbon in well-managed stands and by providing biomass for energy and liquid fuel production.

The articles in the special issue result from a special session of the 16th Biennial Southern Silviculture Research Conference held in Charleston, South Carolina in February 2011. The session, “Southern Forest Science in Support of a Low Carbon Economy,” was organized to address the state of science in forest carbon cycle research, bioenergy systems, economics of carbon sequestration, as well as political and technical barriers to developing carbon accounting systems. SRS research biological scientist Chris Maier chaired the session, with co-chairs Kurt Johnsen, John Butnor, and Dana Nelson, all scientists with the SRS Forest Genetics and Ecosystem Biology unit. Johnsen, team leader with the unit, served as special editor for the issue of Forest Science.

“The potential economic benefits from carbon offset payments and biomass for energy create incentives for landowners to practice sustainable management and to plant forests on additional lands,” says Johnsen. “However, the co-benefits and costs of changing forest management practices to meet goals of reduced carbon dioxide emissions and biomass demand are not well understood.”

The Forest Science special issue includes 11 peer-reviewed articles based on conference talks. SRS researchers are lead authors on three important articles on: 

Additional presentations from the conference can be found by accessing the full proceedings of the 16th Biennial Southern Silviculture Research Conference edited by John Butnor.

For more information, email Kurt Johnsen at .

Access the latest publications by SRS scientists.