Date of Graduation

Spring 5-20-2021

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

Allison Luengen


The Sierra Nevada region is an important carbon sink, storing about 3500 MMTCO2e or eight times the total amount of carbon emitted annually throughout California. However, recent climate-driven disturbances such as wildfires, drought and bark beetle infestations threaten the stability of this carbon pool over the long-term. The existing literature on how treatments impact carbon biogeochemical cycling in the Sierra Nevada was reviewed and interviews were used to identify the top barriers to increasing the pace and scale of treatments. Combinations of forest management treatments such as thinning, prescribed fire and reforestation can help maintain the Sierra Nevada as a net carbon sink over the long-term by altering forest stand density, species composition and fire regimes. These forest attributes increase resilience to mortality from severe wildfires, drought and, insects and bolster the long-term stability of carbon pools in the Sierra Nevada. Despite a consensus on the urgent need for increasing treatments, a significant gap exists between the number of acres that need treatment (over 15 million statewide) and total number of acres treated annually (around 275,000). Funding, permitting and regulatory requirements, and low implementation capacity are the greatest impediments to increased forest treatments. To meet overall forest resiliency goals, around 300,000 acres per year would need to be treated in the Sierra Nevada, conservatively costing $300 million annually. In comparison, the co-benefits of treatments including protection of life and property, improved air quality, water availability and quality, jobs and, economic opportunity for underserved communities was valued at $61.551 billion in 2018. A federal Civilian Climate Corps, streamlined permitting, and development of new markets for treatment byproducts can help increase the pace and scale of treatments to ensure the long-term stability of Sierra Nevada carbon stocks and meet California’s ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals.