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From Models to Measurements: Comparing Downed Dead Wood Carbon Stock Estimates in the U.S. Forest Inventory

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Year Published

2013

Publication

PLoS ONE 8(3): e59949. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059949

Abstract

The inventory and monitoring of coarse woody debris (CWD) carbon (C) stocks is an essential component of any comprehensive National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGHGI). Due to the expense and difficulty associated with conducting field inventories of CWD pools, CWD C stocks are often modeled as a function of more commonly measured stand attributes such as live tree C density. In order to assess potential benefits of adopting a field-based inventory of CWD C stocks in lieu of the current model-based approach, a national inventory of downed dead wood C across the U.S. was compared to estimates calculated from models associated with the U.S.’s NGHGI and used in the USDA Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis program. The model-based population estimate of C stocks for CWD (i.e., pieces and slash piles) in the conterminous U.S. was 9 percent (145.1 Tg) greater than the field-based estimate. The relatively small absolute difference was driven by contrasting results for each CWD component. The model-based population estimate of C stocks from CWD pieces was 17 percent (230.3 Tg) greater than the field-based estimate, while the model-based estimate of C stocks from CWD slash piles was 27 percent (85.2 Tg) smaller than the field-based estimate. In general, models overestimated the C density per-unit-area from slash piles early in stand development and underestimated the C density from CWD pieces in young stands. This resulted in significant differences in CWD C stocks by region and ownership. The disparity in estimates across spatial scales illustrates the complexity in estimating CWD C in a NGHGI. Based on the results of this study, it is suggested that the U.S. adopt field-based estimates of CWD C stocks as a component of its NGHGI to both reduce the uncertainty within the inventory and improve the sensitivity to potential management and climate change events.

Citation

Domke, Grant M.; Woodall, Christopher W.; Walters, Brian F.; Smith, James E. 2013. From Models to Measurements: Comparing Downed Dead Wood Carbon Stock Estimates in the U.S. Forest Inventory. PLoS ONE 8(3): e59949. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059949 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0059949.

Last updated on: September 11, 2013