Forests trap less carbon than before, EPA says

By Marc Heller | 04/23/2024 01:36 PM EDT

The agency’s latest annual greenhouse gas inventory has mixed messages on the carbon-saving performance of forests and agricultural land.

A forest in New England.

In its annual report on greenhouse gases, EPA said forests sequestered less carbon than in previous years. Charles Krupa/AP

Forests in the U.S. may be losing some of their edge as a bulwark against climate change, EPA’s latest greenhouse gas inventory suggests.

In its annual report on greenhouse gases by sector, the agency said forests sequestered 787 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2022, down from 844.2 million metric tons the prior year and from 974 million in 1990.

While the forest-related numbers have fluctuated from year to year, they reflect a downward trend during the period and were partly to blame for an overall decline in the carbon sequestration attributable to land use including agriculture, EPA said. Total carbon sequestration in the land use and forestry category fell by 11 percent from 1990 to 2022.


The report carries mixed messages for the role land is playing in easing the effects of the warming climate. Depending how farmland and forests are managed — and what nature throws at them through disasters — fields and forests have untapped potential to slow the progress of climate change.