The first high-definition map of forest biomass and carbon stock across the lower 48 United States is featured in the September 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine. Researchers Josef Kellndorfer and Wayne Walker of the Woods Hole Research Center (Falmouth, MA) led the study, which combined satellite radar and optical remote sensing data with National Land Cover Data from the US Geological Survey and field observations from the US Forest Service’s national Forest Inventory and Analysis program.
The map, on page 24 of National Geographic magazine’s NEXT section, showing such detail as square-mile checkerboard logging on the West Coast, sparse midwest woodlands, and reforestation patterns on the eastern seaboard, is the result of a multi-year effort. Sixty-six regions of the conterminous United States were mapped with advanced image analysis techniques and statistical computer models, which were then combined to form the complete map at an unprecedented 30×30 m2 (100 x 100 sq. ft.) spatial resolution. The project was funded by NASA’s Terrestrial Ecology program with additional support from the Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools Project (LANDFIRE), and software donations from ESRI, PCI Geomatics, and Definiens Imaging.
According to Dr. Kellndorfer, “This dataset advances our understanding of the United States’ natural resources and provides an invaluable circa year 2000 baseline against which to assess changes in the future and help to improve our understanding of the drivers for change, thus supporting good decision making. Naturally, we are keen to produce the next generation data sets of this kind to assess in detail how carbon stock and forest structures are changing in this country, and internationally. We look forward to working with an ever growing community of colleagues in the US and abroad on pushing forward the science of understanding the world’s forests.”
“Maps of key forest attributes like canopy height and carbon stock have not existed for the US at this level of spatial detail and consistency,” adds Dr. Walker. “These will provide ecologists and land managers with new and better information to support biodiversity conservation, wildfire risk assessment, and timber production, while helping climate scientists and others to better understand the role that US forests play in the global carbon cycle.”
The National Biomass and Carbon Dataset 2000 (NBCD2000) underlying the National Geographic’s map in its September issue is part of the North American Carbon Program. It is available for public download at the Woods Hole Research Center (http://whrc.org/nbcd) and also indexed at the NASA’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distributed Active Archive Center for Biogeochemical Dynamics (http://daac.ornl.gov/NACP/guides/NBCD_2000.html). A zoomable full resolution view of the data set is available at ESRI’s ArcGIS online mapping service.