Reversing forest losses through restoration, improvement, and conservation is a critical goal for greenhouse gas mitigation. Here, we examine some ecological, demographic, and economic opportunities and constraints on forest-loss mitigation activities. Reduced deforestation and forest degradation could cut global deforestation rates in half by 2030, preserving 1.5 billion to 3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (tCO2e) emissions yearly. Our new economic modeling for the United States suggests that greenhouse gas payments of up to $50 per tCO2e could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 700 million tCO2e per year through afforestation, forest management, and bioelectricity generation. However, simulated carbon payments also imply the reduction of agricultural land area in the United States by 10% or more, decreasing agricultural exports and raising commodity food prices, imports, and leakage. Using novel transgenic eucalypts as our example, we predict selective breeding and genetic engineering can improve productivity per area, but maximizing productivity and biomass could make maintaining water supply, biodiversity, and other ecosystem services a challenge in a carbon-constrained world.
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Vol. 60 • No. 9