Forest Carbon 101
How much carbon does the tree outside your window store, and how does that compare to the carbon we emit when we travel or power our homes?
From the windswept sandplains of southeastern Massachusetts to the vast rolling forests of the Berkshires, from our fertile farmlands to cities built along mighty rivers, the Massachusetts way of life is tied to our diverse lands.
Massachusetts forests provide an estimated $2.9 billion per year in life-essential services — filtering our air and water and absorbing carbon from our atmosphere. The natural beauty of the Commonwealth provides the cornerstone of a $24 billion-a-year tourism industry. And the quality of life and economic security supported by nature make Massachusetts an ideal place to live and do business.
Of course, these lands offer critical habitat for natural communities as well.
Our forests have experienced a remarkable comeback since being cleared for pasture and farm fields and are a critical link in the vast, green ecological highway we call the Appalachians. And our coasts are internationally recognized as biodiversity hotspots, offering habitat to rare plants and animals, and migratory stopovers for myriad bird species.
Now these critical lands face threats from unsustainable development and climate change that could be more permanent — and more devastating — than anything they’ve had to face in the past.
But together, we can meet these challenges.
Our Land Conservation Solutions
The Nature Conservancy has a vision to protect the forests, coasts and special lands that support people’s lives and livelihoods in Massachusetts and create a vibrant quilt of healthy communities throughout the Commonwealth.
- Securing Wild Forest Cores
Securing large “core” areas, where the forest is fully protected and managed only by nature helps maintain habitat for forest species from salamanders to songbirds. Large, intact forests with a range of tree ages and species can also better withstand disturbances like storms, invasive species and forest diseases. We are working to set aside 150,000 acres in forest reserves in Massachusetts.
- Conserving Forests with Sustainable Forestry
These forest cores must be surrounded by larger swaths of conserved lands to stay resilient and allow wide-ranging species like black bears and bobcats to roam. This is where sustainable forestry can work hand in glove with conservation, maintaining forested landscapes while providing private landowners with income that provides a disincentive for clearing and developing forest lands. We are working with partners to create a 1-million acre network of sustainably-managed working forests around the forest core reserves.
- Preserving Coastal Treasures
The glacial soils and weather patterns of our coasts combine to create magnificent landscapes and rare habitats. The Conservancy is working to preserve 40,000 acres of unique coastal habitats in southeast Massachusetts and the Islands . Our focus: the iconic sandplain grasslands, pitch pine barrens and oak barrens that define our coasts for residents and visitors.
- Fixing Forest Fragmentation
Forests in our region are dissected by roads, rivers are clogged by dams and few lakes are more than a mile from a road. A focus on stitching together lands and waters across borders can bring back valuable natural services. Connecting forests and other protected lands will help them stay resilient in a changing climate.
- Working with People to Protect Productive Lands
While conservation has made great progress in high elevations, we’ve fallen short in protecting areas like floodplains and rich soils where people love to live, work and grow things. Working with people on sustainable fishing, forestry and farming will allow conservation to gain traction in these flat, crowded lands.
Putting this plan into action now will help Massachusetts weather the changes ahead and ensure that our lands continue to support a magnificent network of life.
Q&A with Andy Finton – Andy Finton, director of conservation science in Massachusetts, talks about invasive insects, climate change and our strategies for keeping forests healthy.
Interview with a Forester – See how responsible forestry can help keep our woods healthy.
Protect Watcha Woodlands – You can help us act on a rare opportunity on Martha's Vineyard.