Canadian Forest Service Publications

Carbon-equivalent metrics for albedo changes in land management contexts: relevance of the time dimension. 2016. Bright, R.M.; Bogren, W.; Bernier, P.; Astrup, R. Ecological Applications 26(6):1868–1880.

Year: 2016

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 36634

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

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Surface albedo is an important physical property by which the land surface regulates climate. A wide and growing body of literature suggests that failing to account for surface albedo can result in suboptimal or even counterproductive climate-motivated policies of the land-based sectors. As such, albedo changes are increasingly included in climate impact assessments of forestry and other land sector projects through conversion of radiative forcings into carbon or carbon dioxide equivalents. However, the prevailing methodology does not sufficiently accommodate dynamic albedo changes on land or CO2 in the atmosphere. We present two new metrics designed to address these deficiencies, referring to them as the time-dependent emissions equivalent and the time-independent emissions equivalent of albedo changes. We demonstrate their application in various land management contexts and discuss their merits and uncertainties.

Plain Language Summary

This study presents two new measures for quantifying the impact of climate on changes in albedo when assessing the effects of forest management. Albedo, which plays an important role in climate regulation, is a measure of the amount of solar energy that is reflected back towards space by a surface such as a forest or snow.

These two new measures of changes in albedo, i.e., time-dependent equivalent emissions (TDEE) and time-independent equivalent emissions (TIEE), provide more accurate readings of differences in albedo than traditional methods.

Light that is not reflected is absorbed by surfaces and turned into heat. The proportion of light absorbed varies according to the surface in question. Forest management alters the nature of surfaces by opening up the forest cover and by exposing the ground or snow during winter. By measuring changes in albedo resulting from forest management in a forest landscape, it is possible to assess the extent of this climate impact.