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Funded Research

Role of Forest Disturbance and Regrowth in the US Carbon Budget

Huang, Chengquan (Cheng): University of Maryland (Project Lead)
Goward, Samuel: University of Maryland (Co-Investigator)
Houghton, Richard (Skee): Woodwell Climate Research Center (Co-Investigator)
Masek, Jeffrey (Jeff): NASA GSFC (Co-Investigator)
Schleeweis, Karen: USFS RMRS (Institution Lead)
Rishmawi, Khaldoun: University of Maryland (Participant)
Zhao, Feng: University of Maryland (Participant)

Project Funding: 2014 - 2018

NRA: 2013 NASA: Carbon Cycle Science   

Funded by Other US Funding: Kathy Hibbard, NASA

The main focus of this proposed study is to derive improved understanding of the US carbon budget by exploiting the advances achieved in this regard under the auspices of the North America Carbon Program. Various efforts to synthesize carbon modeling estimates of the US carbon budget have produced widely varying results (CCSP 2007; Hayes et al. 2012; Pacala et al. 2001b; Schimel et al. 2000). While disagreements among these results are partly due to differences in carbon pools considered and methods and data used to complete the calculations (Houghton 2003b, 2007), incomplete information on disturbance history and lack of data on biomass density are two of the largest known uncertainty sources for carbon studies (Houghton et al. 2012; Ramankutty et al. 2007). Building upon the NAFD results, this proposed study directly addresses these two uncertainty sources. The NAFD disturbance products will provide the best information on US forest disturbance history for the last three decades. In this study, this information will be used to substantially refine estimates of forest biomass dynamics, especially for young and middle-aged forests. The derived biomass estimates and the NAFD disturbance products will then be used in the Houghton et al (1999) Bookkeeping carbon accounting model to derive new carbon estimates for the US. It has been more than a decade since this model was used to derived carbon estimates for the US (Houghton and Hackler 2000; Houghton et al. 1999; Houghton et al. 2000). Our specific project goals under this proposal include: 1). Biomass change from the NAFD products. We have recently achieved success in processing a 30-year Landsat data record to produce annual forest disturbance products for the full extent of the conterminous US (CONUS). This analysis can provide improved understanding of fine scale spatio-temporal patterns of forest age and biomass for more than 50% of all US forest areas. We will develop a three-tiered approach for age and biomass assessment, and will apply it to the entire CONUS region to produce an assessment of forest age and annual biomass change. 2). New US carbon estimates through carbon accounting. The NAFD disturbance products and the biomass change products derived through this study will provide substantial advances for the Houghton (1999) Bookkeeping model. Specifically, these products will provide the most comprehensive record of forest disturbances over the US, and will allow the model to calculated the carbon fluxes from these disturbances and post-disturbance recovery processes with unprecedented spatial and temporal details. We will first refine the Houghton Bookkeeping model such that it will take full advantage of these improved disturbance datasets, the biomass analysis results, as well as other best available data products. We will then use the improved model to derive carbon estimates at national and sub-national scales.


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

Schroeder, T. A., Schleeweis, K. G., Moisen, G. G., Toney, C., Cohen, W. B., Freeman, E. A., Yang, Z., Huang, C. 2017. Testing a Landsat-based approach for mapping disturbance causality in U.S. forests. Remote Sensing of Environment. 195, 230-243. DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2017.03.033

Tao, X., Huang, C., Zhao, F., Schleeweis, K., Masek, J., Liang, S. 2019. Mapping forest disturbance intensity in North and South Carolina using annual Landsat observations and field inventory data. Remote Sensing of Environment. 221, 351-362. DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2018.11.029

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

  • Impact of Forest Harvest Regimes on the Tradeoff between Roundwood Production and Carbon Sequestration   --   (Pui-Yu Ling, Caren Dymond, Weimin Xi)   [abstract]
  • An Evaluation of Environmental Effects on Forest Regeneration of the 1988 Yellowstone Fire   --   (Feng Zhao, Ran Meng, Chengquan Huang, Maosheng Zhao)   [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]
  • Development of S-NPP VIIRS surface type products   --   (Rui Zhang, Chengquan Huang, Kuan Song, Mark Friedl, Damien Sulla-Menashe, Xiwu Zhan)   [abstract]

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