Forests are one of three major approaches for reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere (the other two are energy efficiency and low-carbon energy sources). As trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide and store it as carbon in their branches, trunks, and roots as well as in the surrounding soil and debris.

The forests of the United States currently absorb more carbon dioxide than they release, thereby acting as a carbon “sink” and reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. In 2006, U.S. forests reduced total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5% or 884 million metric tons (see chart). In effect, U.S. forests absorbed more carbon dioxide than the residential and commercial sectors emitted.