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Fifth National Climate Assessment - Read the Report

Monitoring forest carbon storage


Aboveground biomass (AGB) predicted annually (shown for 2016) across the northwestern United States from Landsat imagery, climate, and topographic metrics, at a spatial resolution of 30 meters shown in megagrams per hectare (Mg/ha). The AGB estimates used to train the model were developed from project-level field and airborne lidar datasets contributed by 29 public and private stakeholders from across the region. The annual AGB maps (available from 2000 to 2016) were calibrated using USDA Forest Service (FS) Forest Inventory and Analysis forest inventory plot data, such that they are unbiased and therefore suitable for regional forest planning and forest AGB Carbon Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification. Credit: USDA-FS.

Mapping forest carbon stocks with in situ, airborne, and satellite data supports forest management in the western United States.

The Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a NASA-led effort also involving the USDA Forest Service (USDA-FS), NOAA, the USGS, and non-governmental scientists, focuses on improving the monitoring of carbon stocks and fluxes (or the movement of carbon between the oceans, atmosphere, land, and ecosystems) to support carbon management activities. A CMS study is helping the USDA-FS and other stakeholders monitor aboveground biomass (or organic matter) stored in U.S. forests.

Researchers from the USDA-FS Rocky Mountain Research Station used in situ tree measurements and airborne lidar (high-resolution digital elevation) datasets, contributed by USDA-FS managers and other stakeholders from across the western United States, to develop regional biomass maps. By then integrating satellite data and other geospatial data characterizing local and regional climates, researchers are able to map forest carbon stocks for the entire western United States on an annual basis. These maps are used to help support forest management decisions and carbon management practices for the USDA-FS and their stakeholders, including forest managers, regional planners, and policymakers.