Accurate characterization of Carbon (C) consequences of forest disturbances and management is critical for informedclimate mitigation and adaptation strategies. While research into generalized properties of the forest C cycle informs policyand provides abstract guidance to managers, most management occurs at local scales and relies upon monitoring systems thatcan consistently provide C cycle assessments that explicitly apply to a defined time and place. We used an inventory-basedforest monitoring and simulation tool to quantify C storage effects of actual fires, timber harvests, and forest regener ationconditions in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). Results show that (1) the 1988 fires had a larger impact on GYE’sC storage than harvesting during 1985–2011; (2) continuation of relatively high harvest rates of the region ’s National Forestland, which declined after 1990, would have shifted the disturbance agent primary importance on those lands from fire toharvest; and (3) accounting for local heterogeneity of post-disturbance regeneration patterns translates into large regionaleffects on total C storage. Large fires in 1988 released about 8.3 ± 0.3 Mg/ha of C across Yellowstone National Park (YNP,including both disturbed and undisturbed area), compared with total C storage reductions due to harvest of about 2.3 ±0.3 Mg/ha and 2.6 ± 0.2 Mg/ha in adjacent Caribou-Targhee and Gallatin National Forests, respectively, from 1985–2011. Ifthe high harvest rates observed in 1985–1989 had been maintained through 2011 in GYE National Forests, the C storageeffect of harvesting would have quintupled to 10.5 ± 1.0 Mg/ha, exceeding the immediate loss es associated with YNP’shistoric fire but not the longer-term net loss of carbon (16.9 ± 0.8 Mg/ha). Following stand-replacing disturbanc e such as the1988 fires, the actual regeneration rate was slower than the default regional average rate assumed by empirica lly calibratedforest growth models. If regeneration following the 1988 fire had reached regionally average rates, either through differentnatural circumstances or through more active management, YNP would have had approximately 4.1 Mg/ha more forestcarbon by year 2020. This study highlights the relative effects of fire disturbances and manag ement activiti es on regional Cstorage, and demonstrates a forest carbon monitoring system that can be both applied consistently across the US and tailoredto questions of specific local management interest.

Full citation

Zhao F., Healey S.P., Huang C., McCarter J.B., Garrard C., Goeking S.A., Zhu Z. (2018). Assessing the Effects of Fire Disturbances and Timber Managementon Carbon Storage in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Environmental Management, na:na. 10.1007/s00267-018-1073-y.