Publication Details

Current aboveground live tree carbon stocks and annual net change in forests of conterminous United States

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Year Published

2021

Publication

Carbon Balance and Management

Abstract

Background: With the introduction of the Trillion Trees Initiative and similar programs, forests' ability to absorb carbon dioxide is increasingly in the spotlight. Many states have mandates to develop climate action plans, of which forest carbon is an important component, and planners need current information on forest carbon stocks and rates of change at relevant spatial scales. To this end, we examine rates of average annual change in live aboveground tree carbon in different forest type groups and provide state-wide and regional summaries of current live tree carbon stock and rates of change for the forests of the conterminous United States. Forest carbon summaries are presented in a format designed to meet the needs of managers, policymakers, and others requiring current estimates of aboveground live tree carbon at state and regional scales. Results: Regional average aboveground live tree carbon stocks (represented on a per area basis) are generally between 40 and 75 tC/ha but range from 12.8 tC/ha in the Great Plains to 130 tC/ha in the Pacific Northwest West (west-side of Cascades). Regional average annual change in live aboveground tree carbon varies from a low of − 0.18 mtC/ha/y in the Rocky Mountain South to a high value of 1.74 mtC/ha/y in Pacific Northwest West. For individual states, carbon per unit area varies widely, from a low of 11.9 tC/ha in Nevada to a high of 96.4 tC/ha in Washington, with half the states falling between 50 and 75 tC/ha. Rates of average annual change in live aboveground tree carbon vary from a high of 1.82 tC/ha/y in Mississippi to a low of − 0.47 tC/ha/y in Colorado. Conclusions: Aboveground live tree carbon stocks and rates of average annual change vary by forest type within regions. While softwood forest types currently exhibit a higher rate of increase in the amount of carbon in aboveground live tree biomass, the current standing stock of carbon per unit area does not consistently follow this pattern. For this reason, we recommend computing and considering both measures -standing stock and average annual change—of carbon storage. The relative importance of each component will depend on management and policy objectives and the time frame related to those objectives. Harvesting and natural disturbance also affect forest carbon stock and change and may need to be considered if developing projections of potential carbon storage.

Keywords

Forest carbon accumulation; Aboveground live tree carbon; Regional and state-level forest carbon stock; Average annual change

Citation

Hoover, Coeli M.; Smith, James E. 2021. Current aboveground live tree carbon stocks and annual net change in forests of conterminous United States. Carbon Balance and Management. 16(1): 574. 12 p. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13021-021-00179-2.

Last updated on: May 31, 2021