To find the locations with greatest potential payoff for forest treatments, we started by identifying areas where forest carbon is more likely to be lost to wildfires compared to other locations.
In each area, we considered the likelihood of wildfire and calculated how much forest carbon might be lost through smoke emissions and decomposition. Additionally, we evaluated whether the conditions in burned areas would be too stressful for trees to regenerate over time. When forests regrow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lock it away in their wood, eventually making up for the carbon lost in the fire.
In particular, we found that forests in California, New Mexico and Arizona were more likely to lose a large portion of their carbon in a wildfire and also have a tough time regenerating because of stressful conditions.
When we compared those areas to previously published maps detailing high wildfire risk to communities, we found several hot spots for simultaneously reducing wildfire risk to communities and stabilizing stored carbon.
Forests surrounding Flagstaff, Arizona; Placerville, California; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Hamilton, Montana; Taos, New Mexico; Medford, Oregon, and Wenatchee, Washington, are among locations with good opportunities for likely achieving both goals.