Richard A. Birdsey Ph.D.

  • Senior Scientist
Richard A. Birdsey

Dr. Richard Birdsey loves trees and has spent his entire career studying the role U.S. forests play in absorbing and storing carbon. He is a specialist in quantitative methods for large-scale forest inventories and has pioneered the estimation of national carbon budgets for forest lands. His first job was an inventory of Puerto Rico’s forests. He went on to spend four decades with the U.S. Forest Service, retiring as a “Distinguished Scientist” recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a major contributor to creating a new agricultural commodity—carbon.

Dr. Birdsey was a lead author of two Special Reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He was a lead author of the first North American “State of the Carbon Cycle” report and is currently a member of the science team guiding the second report. A 2011 global forest inventory he co-authored has been cited more than three thousand times by subsequent scientific research. He has published extensively on forest management and strategies to increase carbon sequestration, and facilitated the development of decision-support tools for policy and management.

At the national level, Dr. Birdsey is working with the Forest Service to implement carbon assessments for all National Forests. Meanwhile, he is working with counties and municipalities to incorporate forests into their greenhouse gas inventories. When not at work, Dr. Birdsey can be found planting fruit and nut trees in upstate New York in hopes of making his property there self-sufficient for future generations.

There is no one answer when it comes to how to manage forests to maximize carbon sequestration. There are a lot of answers, and they all have to be put into the local context - the ecosystem, as well as the social and political context.

Selected Publications

Middle-aged forests in the Eastern U.S. have significant climate mitigation potential

Birdsey, R. A., et al. (2023). Forest Ecology & Management.


Protect large trees for climate mitigation, biodiversity, and forest resilience

Mildrexler, D.J., et al. (2023). Conservation Science and Practice.