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Imputing forest carbon stock estimates from inventory plots to a nationally continuous coverage

Barry Tyler Wilson*, Christopher W Woodall and Douglas M Griffith

Author Affiliations

USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Forest Inventory and Analysis, St. Paul, MN, 55108, USA

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Carbon Balance and Management 2013, 8:1  doi:10.1186/1750-0680-8-1

Published: 11 January 2013

Abstract

The U.S. has been providing national-scale estimates of forest carbon (C) stocks and stock change to meet United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reporting requirements for years. Although these currently are provided as national estimates by pool and year to meet greenhouse gas monitoring requirements, there is growing need to disaggregate these estimates to finer scales to enable strategic forest management and monitoring activities focused on various ecosystem services such as C storage enhancement. Through application of a nearest-neighbor imputation approach, spatially extant estimates of forest C density were developed for the conterminous U.S. using the U.S.’s annual forest inventory. Results suggest that an existing forest inventory plot imputation approach can be readily modified to provide raster maps of C density across a range of pools (e.g., live tree to soil organic carbon) and spatial scales (e.g., sub-county to biome). Comparisons among imputed maps indicate strong regional differences across C pools. The C density of pools closely related to detrital input (e.g., dead wood) is often highest in forests suffering from recent mortality events such as those in the northern Rocky Mountains (e.g., beetle infestations). In contrast, live tree carbon density is often highest on the highest quality forest sites such as those found in the Pacific Northwest. Validation results suggest strong agreement between the estimates produced from the forest inventory plots and those from the imputed maps, particularly when the C pool is closely associated with the imputation model (e.g., aboveground live biomass and live tree basal area), with weaker agreement for detrital pools (e.g., standing dead trees). Forest inventory imputed plot maps provide an efficient and flexible approach to monitoring diverse C pools at national (e.g., UNFCCC) and regional scales (e.g., Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation projects) while allowing timely incorporation of empirical data (e.g., annual forest inventory).

Keywords:
Forest; Carbon density; Imputation; United States; Forest inventory; Raster maps