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Funded Research

Assessment of North American Industrial Forests: Disturbances, Biomass Extraction, and Growth Vigor

Huang, Chengquan (Cheng): University of Maryland (Project Lead)

Project Funding: 2014 - 2016

NRA: 2012 NASA: Land Cover / Land Use Change   

Funded by NASA

Tree plantation and other forms of industrial forestry offer vital socio-ecological services to the human society. They can also have many negative environmental impacts, especially when established by replacing native, natural forests with economically more valuable tree plantations. However, this forest system has not been well characterized, especially at the continental to global scales. In this study, we propose to develop a new high resolution (Landsat 30m) continental analysis of North American industrial forests. They include both tree plantations and natural forests that experienced industrial harvest/logging, because more than half of the total wood production over North America is extracted from natural, lightly managed forests through industrial forestry practices. The specific goals of this study include: 1. Develop a 30-year record of industrial forests as defined above for North America using temporally dense time series Landsat observations. This record will consist of a suite of 30 m data products, including: a) The spatial distribution of both plantation forests and natural forests that experienced industrial logging and harvest, which are mapped into two separate categories, b) The year and intensity of each harvest event for each forest patch. 2. Model the growth rates of the industrial forests mapped through objective 1: a) Evaluate how these rates vary spatially and along environmental gradients, b) Analyze the underlying environmental and management factors that may drive the variability of these rates; 3. Combine the survey-based timber product output (TPO) data with the harvest record developed through objective 1 to produce an annual TPO record for the past 30 years. This should aid in assessing the role of industrial forests in the North American carbon cycle. The data products derived through this study are fundamental datasets for model studies to understand the roles of industrial forests in carbon and biogeochemical cycles, the socio-ecological services they provide, and the potential environmental impacts they may have. They will facilitate a greater level of transparency to an economically and environmentally important land use, and will enable improved decision-making on forest land management.


Ling, P., Baiocchi, G., Huang, C. 2015. Estimating annual influx of carbon to harvested wood products linked to forest management activities using remote sensing. Climatic Change. 134(1-2), 45-58. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-015-1510-3

Huang, C., Ling, P., Zhu, Z. 2015. North Carolina's forest disturbance and timber production assessed using time series Landsat observations. International Journal of Digital Earth. 8(12), 947-969. DOI: 10.1080/17538947.2015.1034200

2015 NASA Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems Joint Science Workshop Poster(s)

  • U.S. Forest Disturbance History from 1986 to 2010 Observed from Landsat   --   (Feng Aron Zhao, Chengquan Huang, Samuel N. Goward, Karen Schleeweis, Khaldoun Rishmawi, Jeffrey Masek, Jennifer Dungan, Warren B. Cohen, Zhiqiang Yang)   [abstract]
  • Impact of Forest Harvest Regimes on the Tradeoff between Roundwood Production and Carbon Sequestration   --   (Pui-Yu Ling, Caren Dymond, Weimin Xi)   [abstract]
  • Integrating Lidar Canopy Height and Landsat-based Forest Disturbance History with Ecosystem Demography Model for Carbon Change Estimation, A Case in Charles County, Maryland   --   (Maosheng Zhao, Chengquan Huang, George Hurtt, Ralph Dubayah, Justin Fisk, Anu Swatantran, Wenli Huang, Hao Tang)   [abstract]

More details may be found in the following project profile(s):