EVALUATING THE ECONOMIC VALUE OF CARBON SEQUESTRATION IN A MANAGED FOREST IN TLAXCO, TLAXCALA, MEXICO
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Climate change is recognized as a global threat to human development and well-being. As a member of the United Nations, Mexico entered into the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and developed a National Climate Change Plan and committed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In order to make implementation economically feasible, a value must be assigned to the reduction of carbon (C) emissions or to the removal and storage of carbon dioxide (CO<sub>2</sub>) from the atmosphere (sequestration). The purpose of this investigation was to determine the economic value of carbon sequestration in a managed forest in the region of northern Tlaxcala, Mexico. This was analyzed by two methods. First, an analysis of current total carbon sequestered and its dollar value was performed using a modeling program called InVEST. The model was also run under various harvest and end-product scenarios to measure their effects on future sequestration. In order to determine the effects of current land-use and forest type on carbon sequestration, a comparison was made between three different land-use types: timber harvest in a pine-dominated section, timber harvest in an oak-dominated section, and an area of conservation after reforestation. The InVEST model has various limitations that limit its users ability to make management decisions based on model outcomes. Perhaps the most limiting factor is that the model does not show any negative effect on C sequestration with increased harvest. Since the results of this study show that a relatively high quantity of C is being stored within the forest, the results of this study can be used to enter into payment for ecosystem services programs, carbon cap and trade programs, and to inform forest managers of the effects of different land-uses on carbon sequestration. Specifically, the program Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), created by the United Nations (UN), is being implemented in various regions of Mexico in order to facilitate Kyoto Protocol agreements. In addition, various reforestation projects have been performed within the study area and were funded by a government entity-the National Forestry Commission of Mexico (CONAFOR); therefore, the data generated from this study could be used to perform a cost/benefit analysis for determining whether or not the outcomes of restoration projects are worth taxpayer investments. Although carbon sequestration is only one beneficial outcome of performing restoration projects, this investigation could provide some insight into the return on investment in these or other types of reforestation projects. However, a comprehensive valuation of ecosystem services provided within this forest should be performed in order to account for the value of the intact forest.