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Land Use Carbon Mitigation Options in the Northeastern US

Sarah Walker
Winrock International
1621 North Kent St., Suite 1200
Arlington, VA 22209


Changing land management practices can result in increased carbon storage, however the potential magnitude of carbon benefits and marginal costs incurred vary spatially and are dependent on the management option that is implemented. The potential increase in carbons storage and associated marginal costs from a variety of management practices on agricultural and forest lands are compared here for the northeastern states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. This comparison allows for an unbiased presentation of the potential quantity and cost of carbon offsets only, other factors beyond the carbon sequestration potential of a particular land management use are outside the scope of this analysis.

Afforestation of agricultural lands can potentially sequester the highest amount of CO2e per unit area (average 57 t CO2e/acre after 20 years). Marginal costs vary across the region and for each land management option. Conversion of agricultural cropland to afforestation has the highest marginal costs on average due to high opportunity costs. The afforestation of grazing land has low marginal costs in areas of low hay productivity. Restocking of understocked forest stands and extending rotations in forest lands provide the lowest cost option with the greatest potential carbon mitigation for most counties in the region.