Soils, Forests, and Biomass Policy

GDAE Co-Director William Moomaw and co-author Beverly E. Law have published an article in Nature: “A Call to Reduce the Carbon Costs of Forest Harvest” that models the global carbon cost of harvesting wood from forests, showing a much higher annual cost than that estimated by other models, and highlighting a major opportunity for reducing emissions by limiting wood harvests. Open-access link to article.

Gillian Davies, Senior Ecologist/Natural Climate Solutions Specialist for BSC Group, Inc. and GDAE Visiting Scholar, is leading the consulting team for the No Net Loss of Carbon in Wetlands in Massachusetts project for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Integrating world class research on wetland greenhouse gas fluxes, carbon accounting tool development, innovative mapping of wetlands to identify cryptic wetlands that traditional mapping methods often fail to identify (such as forested wetlands), and decades of experience with the implementation of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, this consulting team is uniquely positioned to develop effective, science-based mapping, tools, and innovative strategies, policies and regulatory approaches to achieving no net loss of carbon in wetlands in Massachusetts.

Gillian Davies, one the co-leads of the Society of Wetland Scientists’ Rights of Wetlands Initiative (, has been collaborating with GDAE’s co-director, Bill Moomaw, wetland scientists, global policy specialists, scientific society leaders, and the Ecuadorian Kichwa People of Sarayaku for the past few years to promote the Rights of Wetlands and Rights of Nature and explore synergies between scientists and Indigenous Peoples. Resulting from this ongoing collaboration, the Darwin Initiative (, a UK government program to support projects that protect biodiversity and alleviate poverty in developing countries, has funded the Rights of Wetlands Operationalization for Biodiversity and Community Resilience Project. Gillian will join other project team members to explore and promote approaches to implementing/operationalizing Rights of Wetlands in five countries (Kenya, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Guyana and Bolivia).

Gillian Davies served as the project manager for the Ayer-Devens Main Streets Pocket Forest Pilot Project, helping two communities to identify locations for five pocket forests, and planting the first of the five in an environmental justice neighborhood that experiences heavy freight train and truck traffic. Pocket forests are dense plantings that mimic the structure of natural forests and include inoculation of the soil with natural forest soil and its microbial, fungal, and macroinvertebrate inhabitants. Several representatives of other communities participated in the Ayer-Devens pocket forest planting day, to learn more about techniques for planting such forests in their own communities. Participants ranged in age from about 3 years old to the founding Director Emeritus of the Nashua River Watershed Association, Marion Stoddart, a local conservation leader in her 90’s. To further support continued efforts to plant pocket forests throughout Massachusetts and beyond, the consulting team developed a pocket forest planting guide with step-by-step instructions and associated photographs that citizens, educators, and municipal staff will find accessible. Contact Gillian Davies for more information.

GDAE Co-Director William Moomaw has collaborated with other scientists on two articles published in the journal Conservation Science and Practice. Protecting large trees for climate mitigation, biodiversity, and forest resilience confirms that large trees accumulate and store a disproportionate share of aboveground forest carbon. The importance of natural forest stewardship in adaptation planning in the United States shows how natural forests, those that are protected and largely free from human management, tend to develop greater complexity, carbon storage, and tree diversity over time than forests that are actively managed. Natural forest stewardship is therefore a critical and cost-effective strategy in forest climate adaptation.

William Moomaw and colleagues have published an article on Creating Strategic Reserves to Protect Forest Carbon and Reduce Biodiversity Losses in the United States in the journal Land, arguing that many current and proposed forest management actions in the United States are not consistent with climate goals, and that preserving 30 to 50% of forested lands for their carbon, biodiversity and water is feasible, effective, and necessary. Moomaw also joined John Sterman, Juliette Rooney-Varga, and Lori Siegel in an article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists titled Does wood bioenergy help or harm the climate? Moomaw and his colleagues argue that in fact wood bioenergy is not carbon-neutral, as claimed by many countries who cite wood energy use towards their Paris Climate Accord commitments. Even with effective replanting and regrowth, atmospheric carbon increase for about 20 years after forest harvest, and remains elevated above the level it would have been without the harvest for about 100 years.

GDAE Visiting Scholar Gillian Davies and GDAE Co-Director William Moomaw collaborated with other Society of Wetland Scientists Rights of Wetlands (SWS ROW) Initiative participants to develop a pamphlet for policymakers and the general public titled Rights of Wetlands: Transforming Our Relationship with Wetlands. Gillian and other SWS representatives shared the pamphlet with Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands at the Conference of the Parties (COP14) in Geneva, Switzerland in November of 2022. This publication introduces the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Wetlands and ideas on how to implement those rights, with examples from around the world. A related article by Davies, Moomaw, and colleagues on “Reframing the Human-Wetlands Relationship” was published in Marine and Freshwater Research.

GDAE Co-Director William Moomaw initiated a letter headed “Cut Carbon Not Forests” signed by 773 scientists to world leaders prior to the December 2022 COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, calling for a halt to the burning of wood for electricity and large-scale heating. Moomaw was also co-editor of a special issue of Frontiers in Forests and Climate on “Natural Forests for a Safe Climate: Enhancing Ecosystem Integrity, Biodiversity, and Adaptive capacity for Climate Mitigation”. Other articles on forests and climate by Moomaw and colleagues have appeared in Environmental Research Letters and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

GDAE Co-Director William Moomaw and colleagues have published an article in Science Progress on “World Scientists Warnings into Action, Local and Global,” identifying six core areas for urgent global and local action – energy, pollutants, nature, food systems, population stabilization and economic goals. Another article in Environmental Science and Policy sets out “Six Steps to Integrate Climate Mitigation with Action for Social Justice.”

GDAE Visiting Scholar Gillian Davies served on The Massachusetts Healthy Soils Action Plan Working Group. This groundbreaking report was released on January 4, 2023. William Moomaw served as an advisor to the team of co-authors that was led by Regenerative Design Group and Linnean Solutions.

Gillian Davies led and coordinated an interdisciplinary team on integrating climate-smart provisions into local wetlands bylaws and regulations in Massachusetts for the Nashua River Communities Resilient Lands Management Project. The project was funded by the Massachusetts Municipal Vulnerabilities Preparedness Program and included representatives from the Conservation Commissions of the Towns of Bolton and Clinton, the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions (MACC) Climate Connections Committee, and Attorney Nathaniel Stevens from McGregor, Legere & Stevens, PC. Gillian Davies also served on a National Academies National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) review panel to review the development of the NCHRP Research Report 1011, Watershed Approach to Mitigating Hydrologic Impacts of Transportation Projects Guide focusing on offsite Nature-based Solutions (NbS).

GDAE Co-Director William Moomaw is co-author of a new article in the journal Land dealing with “Creating Strategic Reserves to Protect Forest Carbon and Reduce Biodiversity Losses in the United States.” The article argues that many current and proposed forest management actions in the U.S. are not consistent with climate goals, but that preserving 30 to 50% of lands for their carbon, biodiversity, and water benefits is feasible and essential to achieve effective carbon storage.

GDAE researchers Gillian Davies (lead author) and William Moomaw have joined with other scientists to prepare a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Wetlands. Read more about the Declaration, along with an opportunity to provide a personal or organizational endorsement.

GDAE Co-Director William Moomaw has authored two letters commenting on European climate policy. In a July 2021 response to the European Commission he calls for an effective European-wide policy on forests for biodiversity and climate reasons, and refutes several unsupported claims about forest harvesting, bioenergy and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In a February 2021 letter he organized a scientific response to the UK’s bioenergy policies, focusing on the implications for biodiversity and climate.

William Moomaw is quoted in a July 9, 2021 CNN report: How the American South is paying the price for Europe’s ‘green’ energy (

Older Eastern White Pine Trees and Stands Accumulate Carbon for Many Decades and Maximize Cumulative Carbon. Robert T. Leverett, Susan A. Masino and William R Moomaw. Frontiers for Global Change, May 2021.

Keeping trees in the ground where they are already growing is an effective low-tech way to slow climate change, Beverly Law and William Moomaw, The Conversation, February 2021.

The Climate Emergency: Forests, and Transformative Change William J. Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M. Newsome, Phoebe Barnard, William R. Moomaw, Barbara Maas, Beverly E. Law BioScience, June 2020.

Understanding the importance of primary tropical forest protection as a mitigation strategy Brendan Mackey, Cyril F. Kormos, Heather Keith, William R. Moomaw, Richard A. Houghton, Russell A. Mittermeier, David Hole & Sonia Hugh Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, March 2020.

Towards a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Wetlands, G. T. Davies, C. M. Finlayson, D. E. Pritchard, N. C. Davidson, R. C. Gardner, W. R. Moomaw, E. Okuno, and J. C. Whitacre. Marine and Freshwater Research, November 2020. (Supplementary Material)

Large Trees Dominate Carbon Storage in Forests East of the Cascade Crest in the United States Pacific Northwest, David J. Mildrexler, Logan T. Berner, Beverly E. Law, Richard A. Birdsey, William R. Moomaw. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, November 2020.

Why Keeping Mature Forests Intact Is Key to the Climate Fight, William Moomaw interviewed by Yale Environment 360, October 15, 2019.

Meeting GHG reduction targets requires accounting for all forest sector emissions, William R Moomaw, Tara W Hudiburg, Beverly E Law, Mark E Harmon and Jeffrey E Stenzel, Environmental Research Letters, August 23, 2019

Intact Forests in the United States: Proforestation Mitigates Climate Change and Serves the Greatest Good, William Moomaw, Susan A Masino, and Edward K. Faison, Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, June 2019

Comments on proposed regulations from DOER. Dr. William Moomaw presented comments on proposed regulations from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources at a hearing on Monday, May 13. DOER is proposing to allow almost any form of forest derived wood or waste incinerator to be burned to produce heat and electricity. Moomaw made the scientific case for why this is contrary to the goals of the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act. 

How Wetlands Play A Crucial Role In The Environment From Flooding To Drought, Gillian Davies interviewed by Mary Kate McCoy, Wisconsin Public Radio, Sept 2018.

What the world needs now to fight climate change: More swamps, William Moomaw, Gillian Davies, and Max Finlayson, The Conversation, Sept 2018

The Second Warning to Humanity – Providing a Context for Wetland Management and Policy, William Moomaw, C. M. Finlayson, Gillian T. Davies, G. L. Chmura, Susan M. Natali, J. E. Perry, N. Roulet, and Ariana E. Sutton-Grier,  Wetlands, July 2018

Scientists Addressing the Board of the Green Climate Fund on Biomass, William Moomaw, July 2, 2018. This letter was signed by a dozen scientists to inform the Green Climate Fund that a proposed bioenergy project that would use wood from Fiji to replace coal in the Republic of Korea would create major increases in carbon dioxide emissions. The Green Climate Fund ultimately did not approve the plan. 

Are Forests a Renewable Source of Energy?, William Moomaw, BYU Radio, May 23, 2018 

Pruitt Is Wrong on Burning Forests for Energy, William Moomaw, William H. Schlesinger, Beverly Law, and John Sterman, New York Times, May 3, 2018

The EPA says burning wood to generate power is ‘carbon-neutral.’ Is that true?, William Moomaw, The Conversation, May 2018. Avaliable in French.

“The True Cost of Green Energy” on the UK program Dispatches
Dr. William Moomaw was interviewed in a UK investigative reporting documentary, “The True Cost of Green Energy”, from Dispatches, that examines the government-subsidised renewable energy industry and asks whether burning wood is really a more environmentally friendly alternative to burning coal.  The Dispatches episode was also covered by Ecologist and Daily Mail .  

Climate smart or regenerative agriculture? Defining new climate policies based on soil health, Anne-Marie Codur and Josephine Watson, GDAE Climate Policy Brief #9, April 2018

Wetlands In a Changing Climate: Science, Policy and Management, William R. Moomaw, G. L. Chmura, Gillian T. Davies, C. M. Finlayson, B. A. Middleton, Susan M. Natali, J. E. Perry, N. Roulet, Ariana E. Sutton-Grier, Wetlands, April 2018

A Critical Look at Forest Bioenergy: Exposing a high carbon “climate solution”, Jamie Fanous and William R. Moomaw, GDAE Climate Policy Brief #8, March 2018

EU Bioenergy Policies Will Increase Carbon Dioxide Concentrations, William Moomaw, GDAE Climate Policy Brief #7, February 2018

“Burning American Forests to Electrify Europe” Documentary
Dr. William Moomaw appeared in the documentary “Burning American Forests to Electrify Europe”, to address the counterproductive bioenergy policies in the United Kingdom and European Union that have driven the clear-cutting of American forests. 

Letter from Scientists to the EU Parliament, William Moomaw joined a group of 796 scientists to urge the EU Parliament to amend the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) to keep fuel from felled trees from qualifying as a renewable energy source, January 9, 2018. Learn more at

Letter from American Scientists to Members of the EU Parliament, William Moomaw and 6 other American scientists wrote to Members of the EU Parliament to urge their support for reforms to the European Union’s bioenergy policies, January 8, 2018 

The Second Warning to Humanity and Wetlands, C Max Finlayson, William R. Moomaw, and Gillian T. Davies, Wetland Science and Practice, December 2017

EU must not burn the world’s forests for ‘renewable’ energy, Co-authored by William R. Moomaw, The Guardian, December 2017

Conserving and regenerating forests and soils to mitigate climate change, Anne-Marie Codur, Presentation at The Fletcher School, December 2017

Can U.S. and U.K. Forest Bioenergy Subsidies Have Adverse Climate Consequences? Stefan Koester and William Moomaw, EconoFact, August 2017

To curb climate change, we need to protect and expand US forests, William R Moomaw, The Conversation, May 8, 2017. Reprinted by World Economic Forum, CBS News, Salon and Huffington Post. 

Hope Below Our Feet: Soil as a Climate SolutionClimate Policy Brief #4, April 2017 This policy brief was produced in collaboration with Soil4Climate.

The Great American Stand: U.S. Forests and the Climate Emergency, William Moomaw & Danna Smith, Dogwood AllianceMarch 2017 
Executive Summary
Related piece on AlterNet by Danna Smith
Related piece on The Conversation by William Moomaw

Meeting the Paris Goals: Clean Energy, Forests, and Soils, William Moomaw, Presentation at International Society for Ecological Economics 2016, Washington, DC

Forests, Soils, Grasslands and Wetlands: Key Allies in Meeting Climate GoalsClimate Policy Brief #3, April 2016

Letter to Congress on forest biomass carbon neutrality, William Moomaw joined a group of 65 researchers to express concern over the implications of Senate Amendment 3140 to the Energy Policy Modernization Act, February 22, 2016. This story was covered by the Washington Post and The New York Times.