Risk Matrix Highlights Knowledge Gaps in Forest Carbon Stocks
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