Publication Details

Using FIA data to inform United States forest carbon national-level accounting needs: 1990-2010

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Year Published

2013

Publication

In: Camp, A.E.; Irland, L.C.; Carroll, C.J.W. Long-term silvicultural and ecological studies: results for science and management, volume 2. GISF Research Paper 013. New Haven, CT: Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry: 149-160.

Abstract

Forests are partially made up of carbon. Live vegetation, dead wood, forest floor, and soil all contain carbon. Through the process of photosynthesis, trees reduce carbon dioxide to carbohydrates and store the carbon in wood. By removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, forests mitigate climate change that may be brought on by increased atmospheric CO2. However, the specific role of forests in climate mitigation continues to be debated. Several decades ago, the debate was whether forest carbon could be measured accurately enough to include it in national inventories related to greenhouse gases (GHGs), especially carbon dioxide (CO2). Today, this debate has expanded to include all lands, including non-forest land. It includes the specifics of how to best design and conduct land-based inventories for greenhouse gases, as well as how to design carbon markets or set policies to best manage land, especially forestland, to mitigate climate change. For the last several decades, forest carbon estimates for reporting and planning in the U.S. have often been based on data collected by the USDA Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program. Smith et al. (2004a) is an introductory publication describing methods to derive forest carbon estimates. Carbon estimates can be reported in terms of carbon dioxide using the elemental weights and proportions of the carbon and oxygen atoms in carbon dioxide compared to carbon. That is, multiplying carbon mass by 44/12 gives the corresponding mass in terms of carbon dioxide. In this paper, I discuss the evolving use of FIA data as a basis for forest carbon estimates for broad-scale, policy-related needs from the 1990's to 2010. I briefly discuss the FIA survey and the improving availability of data, explain indirect and direct methods that were used to calculate carbon stock and change estimates from FIA data, and present examples of policy-relevant reports that use FIA-based estimates and web tools that can provide customized estimates to users.

Citation

Heath, Linda S. 2013. Using FIA data to inform United States forest carbon national-level accounting needs: 1990-2010. In: Camp, A.E.; Irland, L.C.; Carroll, C.J.W. Long-term silvicultural and ecological studies: results for science and management, volume 2. GISF Research Paper 013. New Haven, CT: Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry: 149-160.

Last updated on: September 9, 2013