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Individual Highlight

Scientists Study the Effects of Management and Natural Disturbance on Carbon Storage in National Forests and Rangelands

Photo of Fires release large amounts of carbon to the atmosphere through combustion, and create even larger amounts of dead material that breaks down and is emitted over longer time frames. U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceFires release large amounts of carbon to the atmosphere through combustion, and create even larger amounts of dead material that breaks down and is emitted over longer time frames. U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceSnapshot : Researchers combined satellite-based maps with Forest Inventory and Analyses (FIA) plot data and other resources to develop the Forest Carbon Management Framework. The framework measures the relative impact of disturbance and management patterns on carbon storage, providing important context as forest management plans are revised over the next several years.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Healey, Sean P.  
Research Location : Western U.S.
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2013
Highlight ID : 550

Summary

The National Forest System is subject to carbon monitoring requirements under the Climate Change Performance Scorecard and the new Forest Service Planning Rule. Carbon is stored in forests and forest products keeps greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Informed forest management helps mitigate the harmful effects of greenhouse gases released through human activities. The Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (FIA) provides comprehensive information about current carbon stocks, but resource specialists still need information on how management and natural disturbance affect the amount of carbon stored in national forests. FIA partnered with NASA and universities for several years, developing ways to use remote sensing to map historical forest disturbances and trends. Recently, researchers combined satellite-based maps with FIA plot data, National Forest System monitoring resources, and the Forest Vegetation Simulator in an application called the Forest Carbon Management Framework (ForCaMF). ForCaMF measures the relative impact of either mapped or hypothetical disturbance and management patterns on carbon storage. Today, ForCaMF assessments exist for every National Forest. Preliminary results, available for the Northern Rocky Mountains, highlight the important role of fire in carbon storage in both short and long time frames. Forest-specific reports for the Southern and Pacific Southwest Regions are scheduled to be delivered in 2014. These insights into how the effects of harvests on carbon storage compare with the effects of growth and natural disturbances provide important context as forest management plans are revised over the next several years. This processing, centralized in the RMRS Inventory and Monitoring Program, should reduce redundant and possibly incompatible monitoring efforts as managers across NFS address mandated information needs.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • FS Office of Climate Change, NFS Region 1
  • NASA Applied Science Program, Utah State University

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