Campus Forest Carbon Sequestration: An Undergraduate Project Experience

By Mark Bremer, Emily Frisa, Rachelle Maccarone and Daniel Seif

Abstract: Predicted changes in climate have generated interest in strategies to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases and increase education on the topic. Our study involved an instructor-led team of 19 biology undergraduate students that aimed to quantify tree carbon sequestered on 67 hectares of a university campus forest near Utica, New York, and estimate its monetary value as a carbon offset. We identified individual hardwood and conifer trees and measured diameter at breast height (DBH) of 343 trees within fifteen 0.04-hectare sample plots during a 3-week period. We estimated total campus forest carbon to be 7,678 Mg and annual sequestration to be 82 Mg C/year. We also found additional educational value of this voluntary field research project beyond traditional ecology field exercises. Campus managers could choose to count sequestered carbon as an offset to annual CO2 emissions from campus operations. Although our campus is not eligible to sell the accumulated carbon, we calculated a one-time offset to be worth $143,397 on the voluntary carbon trading market. Future studies could benefit from the efficient sampling methodology we used to quantify carbon contained in large forest areas and increased student learning from project-based field exercises.

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