Photo of Ataya tract and Cumberland Mountains from Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, Tennessee, United States.
Cumberland Mountains Mountain view of the Ataya tract and Cumberland Mountains from Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, Tennessee, United States. © Byron Jorjorian
Land & Water Stories

How We Work With Forests

We use science to protect, better manage and restore forests to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, store carbon and benefit people and wildlife.

Forests are one of the most important ecoystems on Earth. They provide habitat to 80% of the world’s land-dwelling species. They help keep our water clean by naturally filtering out pollution. They provide sustenance, support jobs and offer refuge and recreation to billions of people around the planet. And they are one of our most critical natural pathways for absorbing and storing excess carbon to fight climate change. For millennia, trees have pulled carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and turned it into their bark, wood and leaves through the oldest carbon-capture technology on Earth: photosynthesis.

The economic benefits of restoring forests are an estimated $84 billion. Other benefits include air quality, food, biodiversity, soil health, jobs, timber, fuel and climate change mitigation.
Benefits of Tree-Based Restoration The economic benefits of restoring forests are an estimated $84 billion.

What are Natural Climate Solutions?

Natural climate solutions are actions to protect, better manage and restore nature to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon. Forests provide much of that carbon-storage opportunity. The latest estimates can be found at

The Relationship Between Forests and Climate Change

Research about natural climate solutions shows that by avoiding deforestation, restoring forest ecosystems and better managing existing forests, we can contribute significantly to our climate goals. 

The Nature Conservancy works with governments, corporations, Indigenous Peoples and thousands of partners around the world to protect, sustainably manage and restore our life-giving forests.

Quote: Ronnie Drever

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of forests. Photosynthesis is the original carbon-capture technology. And, of course, forests also provide many other benefits for people and for nature.

Ronnie Drever Forest Ecologist, Nature United
A lush tropical forest in Latin America.
Amazon Rainforest Trees in the Amazon rainforest hold 48 billion tons of carbon. Protecting this ecoystem is crticial for mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss. © Haroldo Palo Jr.


When we protect existing forests, we avoid and reduce deforestation that contributes to climate change and biodiversity loss.

Approximately 41 million trees are cut down every day—far faster than we are currently replanting them. The consequences of deforestation and other types of land degradation are severe, exacerbating climate change, biodiversity loss and declines in ecosystem services that hundreds of millions of people depend on.

In particular, the way we produce common commodities—like beef, soy and palm oil—leads to massive deforestation. This causes habitat and biodiversity loss and contributes about an eighth of global climate emissions, with enormous impacts on the many local and Indigenous communities who rely on these forests.

TNC’s decades of research, partnerships and on-the-ground projects have pointed us to a new path that gets to the root of the issue. By changing the underlying incentives and market models that promote agricultural expansion into existing forests, we can help producers transition to more sustainable practices at a large scale, ultimately eliminating deforestation from commodity production.

Two people measure the circumference of a tree trunk.
Carbon Monitoring in Indonesia Harti Ningsih and Heri Surriyanto measure a tree trunk, Berau District, Indonesia. They are carbon monitoring in a teak plantation. © Bridget Besaw

Better Management

When we protect existing forests, we avoid and reduce deforestation that contributes to climate change and biodiversity loss.

TNC supports forest protection, restoration, and sustainable forest management practices, based on sound science and traditional knowledge. Many of the world’s natural forests provide wood and fiber products—like lumber, furniture and paper—critical to people’s lives and livelihoods. While some logging practices harm forests and the people that depend on them, improved and sustainable forest management makes it possible for nature, communities and economies to thrive.

What is Biomass?

Biomass is organic material that comes from plants and animals. It can come from waste or by-products (e.g. municipal waste, agricultural residue, sawdust, small-diameter timber cut to reduce wildfire risk) or dedicated sources (energy crops, timber). Biomass (directly or when processed into wood pellets) can be combusted to make electricity or turned into biofuels (e.g. ethanol, biodiesel, aviation fuel).

In many places protection is our primary strategy. But pushing for an end to all logging is impractical, unnecessary and ultimately ineffective. Improved and sustainable management practices allow forests to stay forests, while storing more carbon and maintaining wood and fiber production over the long term.

Wood can also be used for energy. Producing energy from woody biomass poses some risks. Demand for wood pellets, one form of wood used for energy production, can lead to degradation and loss of valuable healthy forests. In addition, the facilities that produce wood pellets can also impact air quality and cause disproportionate harm to Black, Brown and other overburdened communities.

We do not support timber harvest or bioenergy production that leads to environmental degradation, injustice, or otherwise harms communities. We believe the carbon impacts of forest products and bioenergy should be accurately calculated. We are against treating all bioenergy as carbon neutral or all forest products as climate solutions.

What do we mean by Improved Forest Management?

Improved forest management refers to caring for a forest in a way that improves climate change resilience and reduces or removes carbon dioxide emissions. Here are some examples:

Person carries pine seedlings through a burned forest.
Planting Pines Joel Licon carries seedling pondrosa pine to plant in an area burned by the Las Conchas Fire in the Jemez Mountains in 2011. © Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal


Planting trees is a tried-and-true way to fight climate change.

Reforestation—or the practice of restoring tree cover to an area that was once forested, either by planting trees or allowing trees to regrow—is a tried-and-true natural climate solution.

Research led by The Nature Conservancy has shown that in the United States, planting trees on frequently flooded lands, open urban spaces, degraded pastures and other formerly forested, under-utilized areas has the potential to capture up to 535 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

Quote: Susan Cook-Patton

Planting a tree, or simply letting seedlings grow in our own backyards, represents something we can do now to reignite our hope for a better future.

Susan Cook-Patton Senior Forest Restoration Scientist

Reforestation Hub

Reforestation Hub is a web-based tool produced by TNC and American Forests.


But there is more to reforestation than planting millions of trees. We need the right trees and the right places. The Reforestation Hub, a free, online tool developed by TNC and American Forests, is a starting point for understanding this opportunity. Tools like this will help ensure reforestation is as effective as possible.

The Science of Restoring Forests

Tree planting is a promising natural solution to climate change and comes with enormous benefits beyond climate mitigation, such as biodiversity, habitat connectivity, improved community livelihoods, and improved freshwater and air quality. TNC and partners advance important science to help ensure efforts to restore forests are effective and equitable.

  • Accounting for albedo

    Provides a global analysis of where restoration of tree cover is most effective at cooling the global climate system—considering not just the cooling from carbon storage but also the warming from decreased albedo. See how albedo impacts tree planting.

  • Natural Forest Regrowth

    Letting forests regrow naturally has the potential to absorb up to 8.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year through 2050, while still maintaining native grasslands and current levels of food production. Learn how forest regrowth can contribute to climate goals.

TNC works with governments, corporations, Indigenous Peoples and thousands of partners around the world to protect, restore and sustainably manage forests.

Edge of Appalachia
In Ohio, TNC is managing 14,000 acres of our Richard and Lucile Durrell Edge of Appalachia Preserve System for increased carbon sequestration.
Emerald Edge
Along the edge of western North America, the Emerald Edge is one of the most diverse temperate forests on Earth.
Maya Forest
In Central America, we worked with a multi-sector coalition to protect some of the most biodiversity-rich forest in the world.
Yun Ling Mountains
In China, we're engaged with the Yunnan Golden Monkey Protection Network, which aims to restore and reconnect the landscape for the endangered monkey and other species.
Mantiqueira Mountains
In the Mantiqueira Mountains of Brazil, we're showing land owners how reforestation can be a lucrative business while also fighting climate change.
Arizona Reforestation
We are restoring forests in Arizona and throughout the rest of the United States to be resilient to wildfires, climate change, and to enhance water quality.
Cumberland Forest
Safeguarding this vast stretch of forest tackles climate change on two fronts: storing millions of tons of carbon dioxide and connecting a migratory corridor for plants and animals
Adirondack Park
At 6 million acres, Adirondack Park is larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Olympic National Parks combined.
Congo Basin
The Congo Basin is the world’s largest carbon sink. Lower-impact forestry methods used here can have a significant impact on global climate outcomes.
East Kalimantan
Since 2008, TNC’s partner in Indonesia, Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara (YKAN), has helped to design and implement jurisdictional forestry programs.
Canada's Boreal Forest
Stretching across northern Canada from the Yukon to Newfoundland and Labrador, the country’s boreal forest is the largest intact forest remaining on Earth.

Examples of our work in forests around the world

How You Can Help

You play an important role in improving the health of forests, in your own neighborhood and across the globe. Here's how you can help.

  • A person with seedlings in his arms.

    Plant a Billion Trees

    Donate to help us plant and care for trees in critical forests around the world in Brazil, China, Colombia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mexico and the United States. Plant your tree now.

  • A measuring tape around a tree trunk.

    Family Forest Carbon Program

    Owners of small forests in the U.S. can leverage the carbon-storing power of their trees in the fight against climate change and earn revenue by enrolling in this program. Learn how to get your family forest involved.

  • Ash covers the bottom of a large, round metal fire pit. A large piece of firewood lays on the ground in front of the fire pit.

    Don't Move Firewood

    Moving firewood across long distances can potentially transport invasive species that cause damage to forests. You can make a difference by using local or heat-treated firewood whenever you need wood for your campsite, cabin or home heating. Learn how you can stop the spread of forest pests and pathogens.