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Climate-smart Forestry and Carbon

Published: February 14, 2024 by
While the term “climate-smart forestry” has only recently emerged, it has already been adopted into some third-party forest certification systems (i.e. SFI 2022 Forest Management Standard Objective #9). Climate-smart forestry emphasizes adaptive and sustainable practices that enhance resilience to climate change, sequester additional carbon, and promote the multiple benefits that forests can provide. While the terminology may be relatively new, many foresters and land managers have been employing tactics to diversity their forests for decades.  
Much like building a quality investment portfolio, climate-smart forestry requires a diversification of assets within a forest to meet the unknown future challenges of a changing climate.  Climate-smart forestry places a strong emphasis on building resilience within forest ecosystems through adaptive silviculture. This involves selecting tree species that are more resilient to changing climate conditions, adjusting harvesting schedules and promoting additional biodiversity to enhance the overall resilience of the forest.
Another aspect of climate-smart forestry is the provision of greenhouse gas reduction benefits, which is typically accomplished by increasing carbon sequestration and storage in the forest.  The Climate Trust’s USDA Climate Smart Commodities Partnership grant defines climate-smart timber as timber produced with a greenhouse gas reduction benefit that is beyond business-as-usual. Specifically, timber and its embedded carbon that would not have grown or been sequestered in the absence of carbon-incentivized reforestation or afforestation efforts. 
The additional consideration of carbon sequestration and adaptation within our forests will allow them to remain ecologically, socially, and economically viable for decades into the future.