Climate-driven Risks to the Climate Mitigation Potential of Forests

New research finds that forests can best be deployed in the fight against climate change with a proper understanding of the risks they face.

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June 19, 2020


William R. L. Anderegg, Anna T. Trugman, Grayson Badgley, Christa M. Anderson, Ann Bartuska, Philippe Ciais, Danny Cullenward, Christopher B. Field, Jeremy Freeman, Scott J. Goetz, Jeffrey A. Hicke, Deborah Huntzinger, Robert B. Jackson, John Nickerson, Stephen Pacala, and James T. Randerson


Journal Article in Science

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1 minute


Forests have considerable potential to help mitigate human-caused climate change and provide society with many cobenefits. However, climate-driven risks may fundamentally compromise forest carbon sinks in the 21st century. Here, we synthesize the current understanding of climate-driven risks to forest stability from fire, drought, biotic agents, and other disturbances. We review how efforts to use forests as natural climate solutions presently consider and could more fully embrace current scientific knowledge to account for these climate-driven risks. Recent advances in vegetation physiology, disturbance ecology, mechanistic vegetation modeling, large-scale ecological observation networks, and remote sensing are improving current estimates and forecasts of the risks to forest stability. A more holistic understanding and quantification of such risks will help policy-makers and other stakeholders effectively use forests as natural climate solutions.


William R. L. Anderegg

School of Biological Sciences, University of Utah

Anna T. Trugman

Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara

Grayson Badgley

School of Biological Sciences, University of Utah

Christa M. Anderson

World Wildlife Fund

Philippe Ciais

Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, Institut Pierre Simon Laplace

Danny Cullenward

Stanford Law School

Christopher B. Field

Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University

Jeremy Freeman


Scott J. Goetz

School of Informatics and Computing, Northern Arizona University

Jeffrey A. Hicke

Department of Geography, University of Idaho

Deborah Huntzinger

School of Earth and Sustainability, Northern Arizona University

Robert B. Jackson

Woods Institute for the Environment, Department of Earth System Science and Precourt Institute, Stanford University

John Nickerson

Climate Action Reserve

Stephen Pacala

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University

James T. Randerson

Department of Earth System Science, University of California Irvine

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