Increasing applicability and performance of carbon sequestration method

Project Overview

Increasing applicability and performance of carbon sequestration method by visualizing, modeling and assessing opportunities for land cover change within the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor

This project developed site-specific recommendations for fallow forested lands, to boost and balance the diverse ecological and economical benefits, and the recreational value these forests add to rural communities. Carbon sequestration rates were also crucial for recommended forest designs and management methods. 


Fallow forest lands are often at the epicenter of conflicts over land use, facing pressure from housing development, renewable energy development and agriculture. However, such lands, if allowed to regrow into mature forests, can provide carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, timber resources, and conservation corridors that enable the migration of plant and animal species – a critical need as the warming climate pushes species out of their traditional habitats. Forests are also catalysts to define the character of “rural commons.” This project focuses on the fallow forests of the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor, a mix of mostly private parcels and some publicly managed lands west of Syracuse and near the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. We seek to develop site-specific recommendations for fallow forest lands that increase carbon sequestration, but also create a stronger collective landscape specific to the Erie Canal corridor.

Our first aim was to identify fallow forest lands, quantify them and study the physical conditions that provoke them. Secondly, we sought to assess their performance in terms of carbon dioxide sequestration, habitat and conservation benefits, economic potential for landowners and their contribution to the collective landscape of the Erie Canal corridor. We worked toward these goals using archival research, GIS data compilation, pattern analysis, field work, forest plot performance assessments and informal conversations with landowners. Ultimately, we developed and tested over 100 different forest designs and management strategies, which included species selection and combinations, planting density, aesthetic outcomes, heritage, recreation and habitat potential. 

The Impacts

Our recommended forest designs combine high-performing species, heritage species, climate-resilient species and species combinations useful for habitat creation. We imagined forest designs and their management needs over 5 years, 20, 50 and 80 years. Finally, we calculated the benefits in carbon dioxide sequestration, enhancement of recreational opportunities and scenic qualities of the corridor. Species that provide economic benefit were prioritized, as long as they would continue to sequester and store carbon dioxide over the long-term, and they were fitted to other landscape considerations. Our initial research focus on fallow forests expanded through the course of this project to embrace the bigger task of understanding and designing forests as urbanizing infrastructure with the goal to transform not just abandoned agricultural lands to forests, but other underutilized areas such as commercial areas with over-large parking lots. 

This project aims to diversify rural economies, establish alternative modes of relating to nature, rebuild the Erie Canal heritage corridor, direct future development, and expand the array of recreational experiences accessible to residents and tourists from the region. 

Woman smiling

Principal Investigator

Project Details

  • Funding Source: Hatch
  • Statement Year: 2022
  • Status: Completed Project
  • Topics: Carbon sequestration, forest management, conservation, rural economies