First Advisor

Patrick Emerson

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Environmental Science and University Honors


Environmental Science


Carbon sequestration -- Measurement, Atmospheric carbon dioxide -- Measurement, Reforestation -- Environmental aspects




Deforestation has resulted in a dramatic change to Earth’s landscape, climate, and ecosystems. To date, 46% of all forests have been cut since the onset of agriculture about 12,000 years ago (Crowther et al., 2015). During that same time, greenhouse gas concentrations have grown by 51.8% (Crowther et al., 2015). A solution to this problem could be vast carbon capture initiatives involving tree planting. Historical reforestation efforts have thus far been conducted regionally and currently make up less than 1% of the forest cover that they are replacing. With current CO2 concentrations at a record high of 402.26 ppm (NOAA, 2016), the question that I sought to answer was; could reforestation alone reduce CO2 concentrations to pre-industrial levels? The purpose of this paper is to answer this academic question in a manner that is objective and constructive. Calculating total available land for reforestation with average temperate and tropical carbon sequestration rates reveals the potential for a 2% annual uptake in global CO2 sequestration (Brown et al., 1996). This increase would translate into a projected 2050 CO2 concentration of 361.22-373.96 parts per million (ppm). This reduction, although significant, would only represent a 7.57-11.36% reduction: far short of the 51.8% reduction necessary to bring CO2 concentrations back to preindustrial levels.


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