Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Forest Service Research Indicates Yellow-Cedar and Other Trees in Alaska Hold Biomass and Carbon

Tall and majestic, yellow-cedar is a culturally and economically valuable tree that has been dying off on more than a half-million acres for the past 100 years in southeast Alaska and nearby British Columbia.  In fact, yellow-cedar decline is now viewed as one of the best documented examples of the effect of climate change on a forest tree species.

Despite this die-off, however, a recent U.S. Forest Service report on the condition of the great coastal forests of southeast and south-central Alaska show that live trees in the region store 1.3 billion tons of biomass and carbon.

In fact, surprisingly, significant volumes of carbon and biomass are also stored in snags and dead trees in the state.

For example, 47 percent of the carbon and biomass on the Kenai Peninsula is in dead white spruce, killed by bark beetles in the 1990s. Still, one of the contributors to this important biomass and carbon sequestration in Alaska’s forests is the yellow-cedar.

Even with this die-off from changing climate conditions, the amount of living yellow-cedar has essentially remained unchanged since the last inventory by the Forest Service. The report, published by the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station, suggests that this stabilization of yellow-cedar stock means regeneration and growth of young trees has offset mortality over the past five years.

The stark effects of yellow cedar die-off (Photo US Forest Service)

The stark effects of yellow cedar die-off (Photo US Forest Service)

2 Responses to “Forest Service Research Indicates Yellow-Cedar and Other Trees in Alaska Hold Biomass and Carbon”

  1. John Chittick says:

    I think you had better find another species to associate with “climate change” because what you have said about yellow cedar (chamaecyparis nootkatensis) isn’t happening on Vancouver Island nor in the Yellow cedar that I am growing at sea level on the Eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula. If “warmer” climate was stressing that species why wouldn’t that happen at the Southern edge of its range rather than in Alaska. My guess is (local) drought, insects or diseases are more likely culprits. I realize that carbon hysteria pays all the bills these days but shouldn’t the enabling narratives fit reality a little better?

  2. Chris Daley says:

    Like the Colorado ponderosa pine beetle kills these NW trees appear to be part of a cyclic pattern unrelated to man made warming; the old timers tell of 1930s beetle kills as well and probably before that? I’m not a scientist, only an observer who recognizes historical data. Trees in East also being eaten by these little buggers.

Leave a Reply