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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection-Sustainability and Green Energy
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Terrestrial Carbon Sequestration

Terrestrial carbon sequestration is the earth’s natural ability to capture and store carbon dioxide in vegetation and soils, where it remains isolated from the atmosphere. In New Jersey, terrestrial carbon sequestration is primarily due to the state's forests and wetlands, which, at 3 million acres, comprise a substantial share of the state’s land area. Grasslands and croplands also have significant carbon sequestration potential, mostly in soils.

The importance of maintaining and enhancing New Jersey's natural capacity to sequester carbon is emphasized in the Global Warming Response Act Recommendation Report, which contains recommendations designed to protect and increase terrestrial sequestration in New Jersey. These include the strategic land management of the state-owned and state-administered state parks, forests and wildlife management areas to retain and improve carbon storage.

treeNew Jersey needs to continue to generate data on sequestration capabilities of New Jersey’s state lands through improved monitoring and measurement. To foster this data gathering, the DEP supported a Rutgers University study (completed in 2010) to more accurately quantify the capacity of New Jersey forests to sequester carbon. Partly as a result of the study, updated biomass carbon density factors were used to estimate forest sequestration in the 2008 New Jersey Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

New Jersey participates in the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP) and with its support carried out a project to assess New Jersey’s enhanced terrestrial sequestration potential, including an empirical study of the forested wetlands of the state (completed in 2011). That report is available on the MRCSP website.

The overall MRCSP effort confirmed terrestrial sequestration as a valuable resource for the region it encompasses (MRCSP member states are: Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia). The MRCSP region has the biophysical potential to sequester approximately 15% of the region’s annual carbon dioxide emissions from large point sources for a period of time, if deployed at full-scale. The assessment for New Jersey indicates a minimum enhanced potential of between 17 to 34% of its current gross annual sequestration.

Other work underway in New Jersey to better understand terrestrial carbon storage and sequestration includes:

  • The state is closely monitoring a project of Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) to develop a science-based national protocol for wetlands as greenhouse offsets. This has the potential of stimulating expanded wetland restoration and protection efforts in the almost 1 million acres of wetlands in the state, more importantly the tidal marshes and forested wetlands (~500, 000 acres) which have high carbon sequestration rates. The marshes and coastal wetlands are deep reservoirs of what is now termed “blue carbon.”

  • A statewide wetland monitoring project (with U.S. EPA funding) covering 300 sites and taking account of wetland carbon sequestration services, among other important parameters.

  • The state hosts a federal research unit scientifically monitoring carbon exchange. A U.S. Forest Service experimental forest (500 acres) in the Brendan Byrne State Forest is part of FLUXNET – a global network of observing stations to monitor total change of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (interacting with vegetation and soils). Data from this network (FLUXNET) has been used by a recent global study which estimated that the world’s forests absorb 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide or about 1/3 of the carbon dioxide released through the burning of fossil fuels and thereby re-affirming that forests are carbon sinks. (Pan, Y., et al. 2011. A large and persistent carbon sink in the world’s forests. Sciencexpress, July 14, 2011.doi:10:1126/science.1201609).

    The experimental forest station also conducts research to reduce the risk of wildfire in the state (a key research area since forest fires could cause substantial carbon dioxide emissions per acre).

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Last Updated: February 24, 2012