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Carbon stocks on forestland of the United States, with emphaisis on USDA Forest Service ownership

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Heath, Linda S.; Smith, James E.; Woodall, Christopher W.; Azuma, Dave; Waddell, Karen L.

Year Published



Ecosphere. 2(1): 1-21


The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS) manages one-fifth of the area of forestland in the United States. The Forest Service Roadmap for responding to climate change identified assessing and managing carbon stocks and change as a major element of its plan. This study presents methods and results of estimating current forest carbon stocks and change in the United States for public and private owners, consistent with the official 2010 U.S. greenhouse gas inventory, but with improved data sources for three states. Results are presented by National Forest System region, a major organizational management unit within the Forest Service, and by individual national forest. USFS forestland in the United States is estimated to contain an average of 192 Mg C/ha (mega grams carbon per hectare) on 60.4 million ha, for a total of 1 1,604 Tg C (teragrams C) in the year 2005. Privately-owned forestland averages 150 Mg C/ha on 173.8 million ha, with forestland of other public owners averaging 169 Mg C/ha on 43.1 million ha. In terms of change, private and USFS ownerships each sequester about a net 150 Tg C O2/yr, but an additional 92 Tg C O2/yr is stored in products from private harvests compared to about 3 Tg C O2/yr from harvest on USFS land. Emissions from other disturbances such as fires, as well as corresponding area estimates of disturbance are also important, but the needed datasets are not yet available. Recommendations are given for improving the estimates.


carbon density; carbon in HWP; forest carbon accounting; Forest Inventory and Analysis; greenhouse gas inventory; National Forest System; uncertainty analysis


Heath, Linda S.; Smith, James E.; Woodall, Christopher W.; Azuma, David L.; Waddell, Karen L. 2011. Carbon stocks on forestland of the United States, with emphasis on USDA Forest Service ownership. Ecosphere. 2(1): 1-21.

Last updated on: December 15, 2011