Managing Rights-of-Way for Biomass Generation and Carbon Sequestration

Focus Area

Climate Change


Air Quality, Environmental Process







Research Idea Scope

Right-of-way vegetation management is a major responsibility of the State DOTs.  Traditionally, roadside vegetation was managed for a variety of purposes important to the public, such as safety, roadway integrity, habitat, native plant restoration, invasive plant reduction asthetics, water quality, and erosion control.  Increasingly however, the DOTs are now being asked to also manage their roadsides for additional purposes, such as, biomass production, and carbon sequestration.  Biomass production and carbon sequestration, when combined with the traditional right-of-way management objectives, will create a huge challenge for DOT vegetation managers. If the challenge is to be met, vegetation mangers will need the most up-to-date tools available, including improved lists of native and non-invasive plants appropriate for roadside use, the latest physical, chemical and biological control techniques that are safe and effective, the latest technology and equipment, and updated training.

This study will identify native and non-invasive plant species, cultural practices, political implications, public relations, and management options that will likely be necessary if rights-of-way are to produce marketable biomass products and gain maximum credit for the DOTs in capturing carbon emissions while still meeting traditional vegetation management objectives.   The study will also develop a measurement technique to assess the ability of highway landscaping to sequester carbon.  The study will provide strategies for good native roadside restoration techniques that will maximize the eventual carbon credits when and if they become available. 

General Scope

  1. Conduct search of existing programs or specific cases of biomass production on transportation rights-of-way.
  2. Conduct search of native and non invasive species information and identify those that are most appropriate for biomass production on transportation rights-of-way.
  3. Search literature for information on the carbon sequestration capabilities of those species identified in item two, including how the carbon capturing capability is measured.
  4. Assess the capability of the selected species in meeting the traditional functions of roadside vegetation (safety, esthetics, erosion control, etc.)
  5. Develop a final report which recommends ecosystem–based plant lists appropriate for biomass production and which include the carbon sequestration capabilities of each species.  The report will also contain recommended methods for measuring sequestration and possible scenarios for claiming carbon credits.

This effort is recommended as an NCHRP study.


Suggested By

SCOE, Natural Systems and Ecological Communities Subcommittee