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A Carbon Budget for Forests of the Conterminous United States

David P. Turner, Greg J. Koerper, Mark E. Harmon and Jeffrey J. Lee
Ecological Applications
Vol. 5, No. 2 (May, 1995), pp. 421-436
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/1942033
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1942033
Page Count: 16
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A Carbon Budget for Forests of the Conterminous United States
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Abstract

The potential need for national-level comparisons of greenhouse gas emissions, and the desirability of understanding terrestrial sources and sinks of carbon, has prompted interest in quantifying national forest carbon budgets. In this study, we link a forest inventory database, a set of stand-level carbon budgets, and information on harvest levels in order to estimate the current pools and flux of carbon in forests of the conterminous United States. The forest inventory specifies the region, forest type, age class, productivity class, management intensity, and ownership of all timberland. The stand-level carbon budgets are based on growth and yield tables, in combination with additional information on carbon in soils, the forest floor, woody debris, and the understory. Total carbon in forests of the conterminous U.S. is estimated at 36.7 Pg, with half of that in the soil compartment. Tree carbon represents 33% of the total, followed by woody debris (10%), the forest floor (6%), and the understory (1%). The carbon uptake associated with net annual growth is 331 Tg, however, much of that is balanced by harvest-related mortality (266 Tg) and decomposition of woody debris. The forest land base at the national level is accumulating 79 Tg/yr, with the largest carbon gain in the Northeast region. The similarity in the magnitude of the biologically driven flux and the harvest-related flux indicates the importance of employing an age-class-based inventory, and of including effects associated with forest harvest and harvest residue, when modeling national carbon budgets in the temperate zone.

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