Storage of carbon in U.S. forests predicted from satellite data, ecosystem modeling, and inventory summaries
A plant and soil simulation model based on satellite observations of vegetation and climate data was used to estimate the potential carbon pools in standing wood biomass across all forest ecosystems of the conterminous United States up to the year 1997. These modeled estimates of vegetative carbon potential were compared to aggregated measurements of standing wood biomass from the U. S. Forest Service’s national Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data set and the Carbon Online Estimator (COLE) to understand: 1) predominant geographic variations in tree growth rate and 2) local land cover and land use history including the time since the last stand-replacing disturbance (e.g., from wildfire or harvest). Results suggest that although wood appears to be accumulating at high rates in many areas of the U.S. (Northwest and Southeast), there are still extensive areas of relatively low biomass forest in the late 1990s according to FIA records. We attribute these low biomass accumulation levels to the high frequency of disturbances, which can be observed even in high production areas such as the Southeast due to frequent forest harvests. Ecosystem models like the one presented in this study have been coupled with satellite observations of land cover and green plant density to uniquely differentiate areas with a high potential for vegetative carbon storage at relatively fine spatial resolution.
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