Man with raincoat walking in forest

Examining the History of Forest Harvests and the Influence on Climate Change

Updated on:
October 23, 2020
Brian Buma, PhD

Carbon management is an important tool in promoting environmental health. It can be used to help organizations limit the amount of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. With a $476,254 grant from the National Science Foundation, Brian Buma, PhD, a professor of integrative biology, will explore what limits, if any, historical management patterns place on current carbon-management actions, and what that means for carbon management in the future. 

The grant money will be used over the next three years to further Buma’s research, which will result in the first spatially explicit carbon maps of the Pacific Coastal region along westernmost British Columbia, from the Northwestern United States to Alaska, which is one of the densest carbon hotspots on the globe. 

According to Buma, studying carbon markets is an important opportunity to apply the economic tools of the market to climate change challenges. The forestry industry is looking to find new solutions for carbon management, as well as new ways to generate income while sustainably managing their lands.  

What Is a Carbon Market?

A carbon market, also known as carbon emissions trading, is a form of emissions trading that specifically targets carbon dioxide. Carbon markets reduce greenhouse gas emissions cost-effectively by setting limits on emissions and enabling the trading of emission units between companies via carbon offsets.

Buma’s work specifically targets rural areas where other industry options are scarce, places where new options like participation in carbon markets could make a real difference to town and community survival. Over the three years, specific valuation targets will be tested and compared to ecological questions of stability, disturbance, and climate change. If the findings are promising, then the future development of carbon markets could substantially improve livelihoods for residents of rural areas.

Participation in carbon markets could aid in the survival of some rural communities while helping to limit overall carbon emissions.

Historical Harvests and the Future 

Regenerating historical harvests gives researchers prime opportunities for the future of carbon management, such as selling carbon offsets to other industries. However, the legacy of historical management patterns can limit what areas are developed for the future of carbon-focused management. Since historical harvests were done differently than today’s harvests, the impact of the mismatched objectives is unknown. Buma’s research aims to quantify and correct some of these imbalances.

Training Students in the Field

Additionally, several students in the College of Liberal Arts and Science will be trained as part of this project. They will work with local and private industry partners, which provides these students the opportunity to receive direct industry experience in the field of carbon markets while completing their academic research.