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A carbon monitoring system for mapping regional, annual aboveground biomass across the northwestern USA

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Hudak, Andrew T.; Fekety, Patrick A.; Kane, Van R.; Kennedy, Robert E.; Filippelli, Steven K.; Falkowski, Michael J.; Tinkham, Wade T.; Smith, Alistair M. S.; Crookston, Nicholas L.; Domke, Grant M.; Corrao, Mark V; Bright, Benjamin C.; Churchill, Derek J.; Gould, Peter J.; McGaughey, Robert J.; Kane, Jonathan T.; Dong, Jinwei

Year Published

2020

Publication

Environmental Research Letters. 15: 095003.

Abstract

This paper presents a prototype Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) developed to produce regionally unbiased annual estimates of aboveground biomass (AGB). Our CMS employed a bottom-up, two-step modeling strategy beginning with a spatially and temporally biased sample: project datasets collected and contributed by US Forest Service (USFS) and other forestry stakeholders in 29 different project areas in the northwestern USA. Plot-level AGB estimates collected in the project areas served as the response variable for predicting AGB primarily from lidar metrics of canopy height and density (R2 = 0.8, RMSE = 115 Mg ha-1, Bias = 2 Mg ha-1). This landscape model was used to map AGB estimates at 30 m resolution where lidar data were available. A stratified random sample of AGB pixels from these landscape-level AGB maps then served as training data for predicting AGB regionally from Landsat image time series variables processed through LandTrendr. In addition, climate metrics calculated from downscaled 30 year climate normals were considered as predictors in both models, as were topographic metrics calculated from elevation data; these environmental predictors allowed AGB estimation over the full range of observations with the regional model (R2 = 0.8, RMSE = 152 Mg ha-1, Bias = 9 Mg ha-1), including higher AGB values (> 400 Mg ha-1) where spectral predictors alone saturate. For both the landscape and regional models, the machine-learning algorithm Random Forests (RF) was consistently applied to select predictor variables and estimate AGB. We then calibrated the regional AGB maps using field plot data systematically collected without bias by the national Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program. We found both our project landscape and regional, annual AGB estimates to be unbiased with respect to FIA estimates (Biases of 1% and 0.7%, respectively) and conclude that they are well suited to inform forest management and planning decisions by our contributing stakeholders.

Citation

Hudak, Andrew T.; Fekety, Patrick A.; Kane, Van R.; Kennedy, Robert E.; Filippelli, Steven K.; Falkowski, Michael J.; Tinkham, Wade T.; Smith, Alistair M. S.; Crookston, Nicholas L.; Domke, Grant M.; Corrao, Mark V.; Bright, Benjamin C.; Churchill, Derek J.; Gould, Peter J.; McGaughey, Robert J.; Kane, Jonathan T.; Dong, Jinwei. 2020. A carbon monitoring system for mapping regional, annual aboveground biomass across the northwestern USA. Environmental Research Letters. 15: 095003. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab93f9.

Last updated on: January 4, 2021