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Forest Carbon Bulletin: Defining the Terms

Common Forest Carbon Terms

Provided by Natalia Medina, Forest Systems Lab Research Assistant, University of Florida School of Forest, Fisheries, and Geomatics Sciences

Forests serve as the largest terrestrial carbon sink, continuously taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in trees and in forest products. In this bulletin we provide some simple definitions to some of the common terms that are used when talking about forest carbon topics and programs.

Carbon cycle

A process by which carbon travels between the atmosphere, soil, water, and organisms.

Carbon pool

A system or part of a system that can accumulate or release carbon.

    • Example: biomass, soil
Carbon sink

A system that has the ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and other parts of the carbon cycle.

    • Example: forests and oceans
Carbon storage

The amount of carbon captured by a carbon pool.

Carbon sequestration

The removal of available carbon from the atmosphere. When carbon is removed via photosynthesis it is biological carbon sequestration.

Climate mitigation

Consists of the actions taken to avoid and limit the release of greenhouse gasses (e.g. carbon dioxide, methane) to slow or prevent climate change.

Carbon credit

A tradable certificate or permit that allows one to emit a specified amount (typically one metric ton) of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gasses.

Additionality

A principle in the forest carbon industry where one demonstrates that without the intervention of the carbon credit buyer the carbon capture activity would not have occurred.

Permanence

When the release of carbon dioxide is below the business-as-usual scenario the result is a permanent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Cap-and-trade

A system for controlling pollution by setting caps on the release of emissions, but allowing the purchase of permits to release more emissions (such as carbon credits).

Shapefile

A file format which stores the geospatial vector data for geographic information system (GIS) software. These are used by some programs to calculate the carbon storage capacity of forest stands via remote sensing measurements.

These terms and definitions were provided by Natalia Medina, Forest Systems Lab Research Assistant, University of Florida School of Forest, Fisheries, and Geomatics Sciences.