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Risk Matrix Highlights Knowledge Gaps in Forest Carbon Stocks

Photo of Climate change risk matrix for forest ecosystem carbon pools in the US. Likelihood of change in carbon stocks is based on the coefficient of variation of median forest carbon stock densities among K�ppen-Geiger climate regions (i.e., x-axis) based on the national forest inventory plot network. Size of carbon stocks are based on the US National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (i.e., y-axis). Societal response (e.g., immediate adaptive response or periodic monitoring) to climate change events depends on the size and relative likelihood of change in stocks. Year 2100 projections are based on linear extrapolations of current carbon stocks and imputing current median carbon pool densities by climate region to projected future climate regions for calculation of coefficients of variation. The soil organic carbon pool exhibits the highest variability among climate regions and therefore may be most affected by climate change or climate change induced disturbance events. In contrast, the dead wood pool has a relatively small stock with low variability among climate regions. Explicit climate change effects are not incorporated into this matrix as they represent a number of complex feedbacks both between stocks (e.g., live aboveground biomass transitioning to the dead wood pool) and the atmosphere (e.g., forest floor decay). USDA Forest Service.Climate change risk matrix for forest ecosystem carbon pools in the US. Likelihood of change in carbon stocks is based on the coefficient of variation of median forest carbon stock densities among K�ppen-Geiger climate regions (i.e., x-axis) based on the national forest inventory plot network. Size of carbon stocks are based on the US National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (i.e., y-axis). Societal response (e.g., immediate adaptive response or periodic monitoring) to climate change events depends on the size and relative likelihood of change in stocks. Year 2100 projections are based on linear extrapolations of current carbon stocks and imputing current median carbon pool densities by climate region to projected future climate regions for calculation of coefficients of variation. The soil organic carbon pool exhibits the highest variability among climate regions and therefore may be most affected by climate change or climate change induced disturbance events. In contrast, the dead wood pool has a relatively small stock with low variability among climate regions. Explicit climate change effects are not incorporated into this matrix as they represent a number of complex feedbacks both between stocks (e.g., live aboveground biomass transitioning to the dead wood pool) and the atmosphere (e.g., forest floor decay). USDA Forest Service.Snapshot : Forest Service scientists propose a basic approach to assess global change risks to forest carbon stocks in the U.S., which builds on the current U.S. forest inventory coupled with current and projected climatic regions

Principal Investigators(s) :
Woodall, Christopher W.  
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2013
Highlight ID : 508

Summary

Among terrestrial environments, forests are not only the largest long-term sink of atmospheric carbon but are also susceptible to global change themselves. To inform global change risk assessment of forest carbon across large spatial and temporal scales, Forest Service scientists constructed and evaluated a basic risk framework that combined the magnitude of carbon stocks and their associated probability of stock change in the context of global change. Results suggest that an initial forest carbon risk matrix may be constructed to focus attention on short- and long-term risks to forest carbon stocks using inventory-based estimates of total stocks and associated estimates of variability among climate zones. This study's risk matrix highlighted numerous knowledge gaps: robust measures of the likelihood of forest carbon stock change under climate change scenarios; projections of forest carbon stocks given unforeseen socioeconomic conditions; and, appropriate social responses to global change events for which there is no contemporary climate-disturbance analog. Coupling these current technical and social limits of developing a risk matrix to the biological processes of forest ecosystems - disturbance events and interaction among diverse forest carbon pools, potential positive feedbacks, and forest resiliency and recovery - suggests an operational forest carbon risk matrix remains elusive.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Christopher Oswalt, Forest Inventory & Analysis, Southern RS
 

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