Researchers from the University of New Hampshire and the USDA Forest Service have taken a broad look at the carbon sequestration capability of forests in the conterminous United States and have isolated the impacts of different disturbances to determine their overall effect. Using remotely sensed land cover change maps, forest fire data, forest growth and harvest, and overall forest inventory data, they have quantified the various impacts.
Their findings include:
- Overall, natural and human-associated disturbances reduced the forest ecosystems’ carbon sink by 36% from 1992 to 2001
- Forest-related land cover change contributed 33% of the total effect
- harvests accounted for 63%
- fires accounted for 4%
Their analysis determined that the southern region of the United States was a small net carbon source whereas the greater Pacific Northwest region was a strong net sink. The national scale of this research is a first at this resolution, and points to potential further development of this model of remotely sensed data for quantifying carbon sinks and sources over large scales. The regional estimates of carbon changes that are outlined in this report are also a first with direct correlation to the type of disturbance.
You can read the full paper in Environmental Research Letters.