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Carbon Offsets in American Forests

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

Carbon Offsets in American Forests

Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas created by human activity, and has therefore become environmental enemy #1. When that carbon is removed from the atmosphere to slow climate change, there is a need for somewhere to store it. Landowners can do their part in reducing CO2 from the atmosphere while earning thousands of dollars per year in carbon credits, all just by having trees on their land.

That’s right, the best way to capture carbon pollution from the atmosphere isn’t some fancy, expensive technology! Forests are the best collector of carbon pollution available, and landowners can keep their land and trees the same while earning carbon credits from the CO2 that their trees are storing.

If you own forested land, you may be able to get paid for carbon offsets for the simple existence of your trees. If you want to reforest your land by planting more trees, you can earn even more through carbon reforestation credits. Another option is to earn carbon credits through afforestation, which refers to planting trees where they have not existed previously. You can find out easily on LandGate how much you could be paid for carbon offsets on your land with our Carbon LandEstimate™ that is provided in our free property report:

What is Carbon Offset Sequestration in Trees?

Trees can remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their roots, trunks, branches, and even needles and leaves. This is done via photosynthesis. During the photosynthesis process, trees take in carbon dioxide and store it until their natural decomposition, at which point that carbon is then stored in the soil. On the flip side, man-made disturbances such as fires and deforestation disrupt tree carbon storage at a much higher cost than natural decomposition. If a tree is burned in a forest fire, that carbon instead gets released back into the atmosphere.

What are the Best Tree Types for Carbon Sequestration?

Some tree types sequester more carbon from the air compared to others. LandGate outlines the carbon sequestration of different tree species on our map. This will show the types of trees and their carbon sequestration capacity in tons/ acre/ year. The more carbon the trees can store, the more the land will be worth for carbon offsets. Generally, the older the forest, the more carbon dioxide the trees can store. Similarly, the taller and healthier a tree grows, the more carbon it can store. Older trees may grow at a slower rate than saplings, but the amount of carbon they are able to store is greater. There are also certain tree species with increased carbon sequestration rates. Dave Nowak, a researcher at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Syracuse, New York, studies just this - tree species for carbon offsets. Nowak found that these trees are especially good at absorbing and storing carbon: the common Horse-Chestnut, Black Walnut, American Sweetgum, Ponderosa Pine, Red Pine, White Pine, London Plane, Hispaniolan Pine, Douglas Sir, Scarlet Oak, Red Oak, Virginia Live Oak, and Bald Cypress. Here are some general rules of thumb you can use to determine what types of trees are best for carbon storage:

  1. Fast growing trees

  2. Long-lived trees

  3. Large leaves and wide crowns

  4. Native species

  5. Low-maintenance, disease-resistant species

The best trees for carbon offsets are also present in areas where the forest receives a lot of water precipitation. This makes the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest the best place for tree carbon storage in the United States. Other areas of high carbon storage include the forests of the Southeast and Appalachia, followed by the forests in the Northeast and New England, as well as the forests in the Rocky Mountain region. Heavily forested areas can hold as much as 3.5 tons/acre/year of CO2 in trees alone. One carbon offset is equal to one metric ton of carbon dioxide sequestered. This is important because carbon credits are measured and paid to landowners in terms of metric tons of carbon absorbed.

What is a Harvest Deferral Carbon Credit?

A Harvest Deferral Credit is the most common type of carbon credit contract for landowners with forested land. It is a guarantee made by the landowner that a certain amount of carbon dioxide emissions will be prevented by entering the atmosphere for a period of time by delaying harvest. In order to qualify for a Harvest Deferral Credit, those trees must first be at risk of being timbered.

Sell Carbon Credits from Your Forested Land with LandGate

You may have heard about various large corporations pledging to be “carbon neutral” and wonder how these companies can claim this while simultaneously producing a lot of carbon pollution. This is the idea behind forest carbon credits - essentially, a forest carbon credit is a promise that a company can purchase to counteract their emissions by paying to protect or plant trees. In order to back up their “carbon neutral” claim, companies will pay to protect forested areas and calculate the amount of carbon stored per year to offset their own pollution. In other words, carbon credit companies will pay you money just for keeping your land the way it already is. You can see what your land is worth for carbon storage, receive an accurate carbon credit report, as well as list your carbon credits for sale for free on LandGate's online marketplace. Find your land on our map to get started.


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