Reducing Uncertainty and Increasing Consistency: Recent Technical Improvements to the 2015 United States Forest Carbon Inventory

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 10:50 AM
Christopher W Woodall, Grant M Domke and John Coulston, US Forest Service St. Paul, St. Paul, MN, United States
A national system of field inventory plots is the primary data source for the annual assessment of US forest carbon (C) stocks and stock-change to meet reporting requirements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The inventory data and their role in national carbon reporting continue to evolve. The Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program of the USDA Forest Service is charged with conducting the field inventory of US forest C. The FIA program employs remotely sensed imagery to define forest and nonforest plots which are systematically distributed approximately every 2,428 ha across the conterminous US. More than 125,000 plots in the current field inventory have at least one forested condition where field crews measure tree- and site-level attributes (e.g., diameter and tree height) at regular temporal intervals. A subset of forested plots is measured for additional variables related to forest non-tree C pools (e.g., downed woody materials, understory vegetation, and soils). The FIA program does not directly measure forest C stocks. Instead, a combination of empirically derived C estimates (e.g., standing live and dead trees) and models (e.g., understory C stocks related to stand age and forest type) are used to estimate forest C stocks. A series of recent refinements in FIA estimation procedures have sought to reduce the uncertainty associated with the national C inventory by: 1) refining forest floor C estimates with in situ data, 2) updating the live belowground and understory C pools modeling approaches, 3) refining objective delineations between woodland and forest land uses, and 4) revising managed land delineations. The results of these studies in the context of forest C accounting and future refinements are discussed in the context of UNFCCC reporting.