Interior agency sizes up carbon storage in forests and soils

The U.S. Geological Survey, a branch of the Interior Department, provides a reminder today about the role of trees and soils in efforts to slow the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The agency issued a report on the amount of carbon stored in forests and soils in the lower 48 states. According to a USGS summary, the data show that the U.S. currently stores 73 billion metric tons of carbon in soils and 17 billion metric tons in forests, the equivalent of more than 50 years of current U.S. energy-related emissions.

“This shows the need to protect existing carbon stores to prevent additional warming and future harm to ecosystems,” USGS said in releasing the study. Forests and soils soak up about 30 percent of the nation’s annual fossil fuel emissions, USGS said.

“Enhancing the carbon storage capacity of America’s and the world’s ecosystems is an important tool to reduce carbon emissions and help ecosystems adapt to changing climate conditions,” the agency added.