High-resolution mapping of time since disturbance and forest carbon flux from remote sensing and inventory data to assess harvest, fire, and beetle disturbance legacies in the Pacific Northwest
- 1Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, Worcester, MA 01610, USA
- 2Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA
Abstract. Accurate assessment of forest carbon storage and uptake is central to policymaking aimed at mitigating climate change and understanding the role forests play in the global carbon cycle. Disturbances have highly diverse impacts on forest carbon dynamics, making them a challenge to quantify and report. Time since disturbance is a key intermediate determinant that aids the assessment of disturbance-driven carbon emissions and removals legacies. We propose a new methodology of quantifying time since disturbance and carbon flux across forested landscapes in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) at a fine scale (30 m) by combining remote sensing (RS)-based disturbance year, disturbance type, and above-ground biomass with forest inventory data. When a recent disturbance is detected, time since disturbance can be directly determined by combining three RS-derived disturbance products, or time since the last stand clearing can be inferred from a RS-derived 30 m biomass map and field inventory-derived species-specific biomass accumulation curves. Net ecosystem productivity (NEP) is further mapped based on carbon stock and flux trajectories derived from the Carnegie-Ames-Stanford Approach (CASA) model in our prior work that described how NEP changes with time following harvest, fire, or bark beetle disturbances of varying severity. Uncertainties from biomass map and forest inventory data were propagated by probabilistic sampling to provide a statistical distribution of stand age and NEP for each forest pixel. We mapped mean, standard deviation, and statistical distribution of stand age and NEP at 30 m in the PNW region. Our map indicated a net ecosystem productivity of 5.9 Tg C yr−1 for forestlands circa 2010 in the study area, with net uptake in relatively mature (> 24 years old) forests (13.6 Tg C yr−1) overwhelming net negative NEP from tracts that had recent harvests (−6.4 Tg C yr−1), fires (−0.5 Tg C yr−1), and bark beetle outbreaks (−0.8 Tg C yr−1). The approach will be applied to forestlands in other regions of the conterminous US to advance a more comprehensive monitoring, mapping, and reporting of the carbon consequences of forest change across the US.