Tree planting has the potential to increase carbon sequestration capacity of forests in the United States
Several initiatives have been proposed to mitigate forest loss and climate change through tree planting as well as maintaining and restoring forest ecosystems. These initiatives have both inspired and been inspired by global assessments of tree and forest attributes and their contributions to offset carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Here we use data from more than 130,000 national forest inventory plots to describe the contribution of nearly 1.4 trillion trees on forestland in the conterminous United States to mitigate CO2 emissions and the potential to enhance carbon sequestration capacity on productive forestland. Forests and harvested wood products uptake the equivalent of more than 14% of economy-wide CO2 emissions in the United States annually, and there is potential to increase carbon sequestration capacity by ∼20% (−187.7 million metric tons [MMT] CO2 ± −9.1 MMT CO2) per year by fully stocking all understocked productive forestland. However, there are challenges and opportunities to be considered with tree planting. We provide context and estimates from the United States to inform assessments of the potential contributions of forests in climate change mitigation associated with tree planting.