Forested lands, representing the largest terrestrial carbon sink in the United States, offset 16% of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions through carbon sequestration. Meanwhile, this carbon sink is threatened by deforestation, climate change and natural disturbances. As a result, U.S. Forest Service policies require that National Forests assess baseline carbon stocks and influences of disturbance and management activities on carbon stocks and trends, with the goal of incorporating carbon stewardship into management activities. To accomplish these objectives, we utilize Forest Inventory and Analysis datasets and remote sensing-based disturbance histories within a carbon modeling framework to estimate past and present carbon stocks and trends for each national forest. We integrate three forest carbon models: 1) Carbon Calculation Tool, 2) Forest Carbon Management Framework, and 3) Integrated Terrestrial Ecosystem Carbon model, to calculate baseline carbon stocks and the relative impacts of disturbance and non-disturbance factors on forest carbon stocks and flux. Results of the assessments ultimately help forest managers quantify carbon consequences of broad forest management strategies and project-level decisions. A case study from Flathead National Forest shows that disturbances, primarily fire and disease, have had the largest effect on forest carbon stocks.

Full citation

Dugan A.J., Birdsey R., Healey S.P., Woodall C.W., Zhang F., Chen J.M., Hernandez A.J., McCarter J.B. (2016). Utilizing Forest Inventory and Analysis Data, Remote Sensing, and Ecosystem Models for National Forest System Carbon Assessments. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-931. Portland, OR. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.