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Carbon stocks and stock change on federal forest lands of the United States

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Forest land in the United States offsets more than 11% of total domestic greenhouse gas emissions each year through growth of live woody biomass and accumulation of carbon in trees, dead organic matter, and harvested wood products. Forest lands owned and managed by various agencies of the U.S. government cover 77 million hectares, which is 29% of U.S. forest land and an estimated 33%, or 17.2 Pg C, of forest carbon stocks. Here, we summarize forest inventory-based estimates of forest carbon stocks and indications of carbon stock change on forest lands managed by agencies within the U.S. federal government. Within the conterminous USA, the proportion of forest land that is federally owned is higher in the West representing two-thirds of forest carbon stocks; in the East, federal lands represent 9% of forest carbon. The majority of federal forests and forest carbon are managed by the U.S. Forest Service (13.8 Pg C), but 20% of federal forest carbon stocks, or 3.5 Pg C, are managed by other federal agencies (e.g., National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management). We also briefly review some broad characteristics of the forest inventory that affect forest carbon reported for the USA as included in greenhouse gas inventories such as for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change reporting.


biomass; carbon stocks; National Forest Inventory; public land


Smith, James E.; Domke, Grant M.; Nichols, Michael C.; Walters, Brian F. 2019. Carbon stocks and stock change on federal forest lands of the United States. Ecosphere. 10(3): e02637-.

Last updated on: March 7, 2019