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Funded Research

Linking Satellite and Soil Data to Validate Coastal Wetland 'Blue Carbon' Inventories: Upscaled Support for Developing MRV and REDD+ Protocols

Windham-Myers, Lisamarie: United States Geological Survey (Project Lead)
Byrd, Kristin: USGS (Co-Investigator)
Feagin, Rusty: Texas A&M University (Co-Investigator)
Simard, Marc (Mac): Jet Propulsion Laboratory / Caltech (Co-Investigator)
Sutton-Grier, Ariana: University of Maryland (Co-Investigator)
Holmquist, James: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (Post-Doc)

Project Funding: 2014 - 2018

NRA: 2014 NASA: Carbon Monitoring System   

Funded by NASA, USGS

The NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) is poised to fill a missing gap in blue carbon accounting by providing 1) a national-scale data framework to integrate and extrapolate field measurements that support national GHG inventory requirements, and 2) testing data needs for quantification of stock-based changes in coastal wetland sediments (soil) and vegetation for eventual REDD+ eligibility. We propose to develop a verifiable carbon (C) monitoring protocol appropriate for national policy and market interventions. Our approach is to refine Landsat-based land cover change data from NOAA’s Coastal Change Analysis Program, with C-relevant attributes from finer scale NASA-derived spectral and RADAR data, as well as broadly available field-data from partner agencies. Synthesizing previously-collected data for 6 sentinel sites along representative coasts of the U.S., we will refine and validate an IPCC-relevant, temporally-explicit (1992-2011) accounting method for coastal wetland C stocks and annual fluxes. Our approach leverages a recent surge in research on the key processes that regulate soil C accumulation in tidal wetlands, which we propose can be captured at large spatial scales using remotely sensed data and GIS modeling. Net annual C flux into tidal wetland soils is largely a function of vertical accretion due to organic accumulation with sea level rise, or C losses due to oxidation and erosion. Dated soil cores (137Cs, 210Pb) provide quantification of C stocks and long-term rates of net C accretion or loss. The IPCC default value for soil C sequestration in tidal wetlands is 140 g/m2/yr, but rates in U.S. tidal wetlands range from 20-800 g C /m2/yr. The greatest uncertainty in current blue carbon inventory approaches arises from categorical upscaling, or distributing point data through the estuarine landscape. Both the updated USFWS National Wetland Inventory (NWI) and NOAA’s Landsat-based C-CAP program provide current and historic national distributions of estuarine intertidal wetlands. As linked with USDA SSURGO dataset, the raster-based Landsat-derived C-CAP land cover maps will be used as the primary spatial dataset for tidal wetland distribution and initial estimates of U.S. coastal wetland GHG annual inventories. Field data provide both a) attributes in a land cover model (tide gauges, elevation) and b) validation datasets (soil cores, biomass, salinity, methane fluxes). While analyses are focused on 6 sites, these field-based data are broadly available across the U.S. through partner agencies such as NOAA, Smithsonian, NSF, EPA, USFWS, and Louisiana’s CRMS databases. One goal will be to determine the price of precision or extent to which finer habitat classifications (hydrology, salinity, sea-level rise) continue to inform C accounting with greater accuracy. Remotely-sensed data products will be derived from ongoing NASA Earth Observations, specifically Landsat, Aquarius, PRISM, ALOS-2, UAVSAR, and HICO. Where available, airborne datasets (AVIRIS, AirSWOT) may illustrate the value of future satellite missions (HyspIRI, SWOT) for wetland C accounting. This project will provide a fundamental data platform to aid the U.S. in quantifying emissions and removals in response to the IPCC Wetlands Supplement (2014) as requested to support the national report in 2017. We recognize that MRV in coastal wetlands will require both remote sensing and field-based data to hindcast and continue monitoring C emissions and removals. Critical products will include network building, data compilation, algorithm development, and MRV error analyses across a series of data-driven scales. Our intensive site validation supports testable indices for accurate C flux accounting, and thus meets several CMS goals such as 1) future application at continental scales, 2) model testing of key drivers of coastal C sequestration and 3) intercomparison and collaboration with associated NASA-supported coastal C cycling research and scenario testing.


Byrd, K. B., Ballanti, L., Thomas, N., Nguyen, D., Holmquist, J. R., Simard, M., Windham-Myers, L. 2018. A remote sensing-based model of tidal marsh aboveground carbon stocks for the conterminous United States. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. 139, 255-271. DOI: 10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2018.03.019

EPA, 2017. Inventory of US greenhouse gas emissions and sinks: 1990-2015. Environmental Protection Agency. Chapter 6. Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry

Hinson, A. L., Feagin, R. A., Eriksson, M. 2019. Environmental Controls on the Distribution of Tidal Wetland Soil Organic Carbon in the Continental United States. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 33(11), 1408-1422. DOI: 10.1029/2019GB006179

Hinson, A. L., Feagin, R. A., Eriksson, M., Najjar, R. G., Herrmann, M., Bianchi, T. S., Kemp, M., Hutchings, J. A., Crooks, S., Boutton, T. 2017. The spatial distribution of soil organic carbon in tidal wetland soils of the continental United States. Global Change Biology. 23(12), 5468-5480. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13811

Holmquist, J. R., Windham-Myers, L., Bliss, N., Crooks, S., Morris, J. T., Megonigal, J. P., Troxler, T., Weller, D., Callaway, J., Drexler, J., Ferner, M. C., Gonneea, M. E., Kroeger, K. D., Schile-Beers, L., Woo, I., Buffington, K., Breithaupt, J., Boyd, B. M., Brown, L. N., Dix, N., Hice, L., Horton, B. P., MacDonald, G. M., Moyer, R. P., Reay, W., Shaw, T., Smith, E., Smoak, J. M., Sommerfield, C., Thorne, K., Velinsky, D., Watson, E., Grimes, K. W., Woodrey, M. 2018. Accuracy and Precision of Tidal Wetland Soil Carbon Mapping in the Conterminous United States. Scientific Reports. 8(1). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-26948-7

Holmquist, J., Windham-Myers, L., Bernal, B., Byrd, K. B., Crooks, S., Gonneea, M. E., Herold, N., Knox, S. H., Kroeger, K., McCombs, J., Megonigal, J. P., Meng, L., Morris, J. T., Sutton-Grier, A. E., Troxler, T. G., Weller, D. 2018. Uncertainty in United States coastal wetland greenhouse gas inventorying. Environmental Research Letters. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aae157

Rogers, K., Kelleway, J. J., Saintilan, N., Megonigal, J. P., Adams, J. B., Holmquist, J. R., Lu, M., Schile-Beers, L., Zawadzki, A., Mazumder, D., Woodroffe, C. D. 2019. Wetland carbon storage controlled by millennial-scale variation in relative sea-level rise. Nature. 567(7746), 91-95. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-0951-7

Thomas, N., Simard, M., Castaneda-Moya, E., Byrd, K., Windham-Myers, L., Bevington, A., Twilley, R. R. 2019. High-resolution mapping of biomass and distribution of marsh and forested wetlands in southeastern coastal Louisiana. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation. 80, 257-267. DOI: 10.1016/j.jag.2019.03.013

Windham-Myers, L., T. Troxler, and S. Crooks (eds) (2018) A Blue Carbon Primer: The State of Coastal Wetland Carbon Science, Practice and Policy. 352pp. CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group: Boca Raton, FL ISBN-13: 978-1498769099

Morris, J. T., Barber, D. C., Callaway, J. C., Chambers, R., Hagen, S. C., Hopkinson, C. S., Johnson, B. J., Megonigal, P., Neubauer, S. C., Troxler, T., Wigand, C. 2016. Contributions of organic and inorganic matter to sediment volume and accretion in tidal wetlands at steady state. Earth's Future. 4(4), 110-121. DOI: 10.1002/2015EF000334

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

  • Developing Policy-Relevant 'Blue Carbon' Protocols for Monitoring and Verification - Linking soil and satellite data to reduce uncertainty in coastal wetland carbon storage fluxes for national GHG inventories and market incentives   --   (Lisamarie Windham-Myers, Brian Bergamaschi, Judith Drexler, Kristin Byrd, Matthew Ferner, Patrick J. Megonigal, Lisa Schile, Donald Weller, Kevin Kroeger, Stephen Crooks, James Morris, Ariana Sutton-Grier, John Callaway, Marc Simard, Isa Woo, John Takekawa, Rusty A Feagin, Tiffany Troxler)   [abstract]   [poster]
  • Spatial quantification of blue carbon at landscape and continental scales   --   (Rusty A Feagin, R Wasantha Kulawardhana, Audra L Hinson, Sorin C Popescu, Thomas S Bianchi, Kevin M Yeager, Raymond G Najjar, Kevin D Kroeger, Lisa Windham-Myers)   [abstract]   [poster]

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