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Carbon Sequestration from 40 Years of Planting Genetically Improved Loblolly Pine across the Southeast United States

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Highly productive, widely deployed genetically improved loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) may play an important role in mitigating rising atmospheric CO2 via carbon (C) sequestration. To understand the role of loblolly pine genetic improvement in future C sequestration strategies, we examined the historical (1968‐2007) impact of operationally deploying improved families of loblolly pine on productivity and C sequestration across the southeast United States. Since 1977, nearly 100% of loblolly pine plantations in the southeast United States have been established with genetically improved loblolly pine. In recent years, more than 400,000 ha of genetically improved loblolly pine are planted annually. Between 1968 and 2007, we estimate that genetically improved loblolly pine plantations have produced a total of 25.6 billion m3 of stemwood volume and have sequestered 9,865 Tg C in live and dead biomass. Our estimates also indicate that genetic improvement has resulted in an additional 3.7 billion m3 (17% increase) and 1,100 Tg C (13%) of volume production and C sequestration, respectively, relative to volume production and C sequestration with no genetic improvement. We expect that loblolly pine plantation C sequestration will increase as more productive families and clones are deployed and as currently deployed genetic material continues to mature. Together, genetic improvement, intensive silvicultural, and longer rotations aimed at producing long-lived wood products will be important tools for maximizing C sequestration in loblolly pine plantations.

Keywords: biomass; carbon; climate change; genetic gain; genotype

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2012

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