USDA Forest Service

Forest Inventory and Analysis National Program


Forest Inventory & Analysis
National Office
U.S. Forest Service
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-0003

(703) 605-4177

United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

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Forest Carbon Estimation

Welcome to Forest Carbon Estimation in the FIA program!! On this page you will find: standard estimates by domains of interest, emerging research and associated highlights, documentation, important links, and general background regarding carbon estimation in the FIA program.

Accurate estimates of carbon in forests are crucial for forest carbon management, carbon credit trading, national reporting of greenhouse gas inventories to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, calculating estimates for the Montreal Process criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, and registering forest-related activities for the national 1605(b) Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Program and other greenhouse gas registries for States and regions.

Draft of New
Forest Carbon

Accounting Framework
Please follow this link
to access the draft pdf
[image] Draft of New Forest Carbon Accounting Framework

[image] Forest Emissions/Sequestration Chart.

Historic annual rates of forest ecosystem and harvested wood product CO2 net emissions/sequestration in US forests (black line: Birdsey et al. 2006, green line: EPA 2012) and global atmospheric CO2 concentration (Etheridge et al. 1998, ESRL 2012), 1635 to 2010

US forests and associated industries currently provide the largest annual reduction of CO2 emissions of any land use in our Nation.  Reliable estimates of this ecosystem service is essential to our society.

Map of total forest carbon stocks.

This modeling approach will be used to move the annual inventory system back (to 1990) and forward (to 2030) through time and provide carbon estimates that satisfy UNFCCC requirements and future commitments

Coming Soon!!!
A new Approach to Forest Carbon Accounting in 2016

We are developing a new framework that can quickly address new questions, enables carbon analytics, and uses all the inventory information (e.g., disturbances and land use change) while having the flexibility to engage a wider breadth of stakeholders and partner agencies.

The annual inventory system that measures disturbances and carbon stocks on all forest plots while identifying land use and change on all plots (regardless of presence of forest) will serve as the foundation of the accounting system.

Map of total forest carbon stocks.

Total forest carbon stocks (C Mg/ha, all pools) across the conterminous US

New methods have been developed to produce maps of forest carbon stocks across the US!!



Available Raster Data

NFS Carbon Assessments

Our forests – national forests as well as private and other public forests – provide an important ecosystem service in the form of carbon sequestration – the uptake and storage of carbon in forests and wood products. This service is becoming more valuable as the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions are becoming more fully understood and experienced. The Forest Service has always led efforts to practice, develop, and demonstrate sound and sustainable management of forest-based resources; the management of forest carbon is no exception.

image of Climate Change Briefing Paper

The Forest Service has developed regional carbon assessment reports (whitepapers) to help forest managers and the public understand how much carbon is stored in forest ecosystems and harvested wood products. The baseline forest carbon reports provide information from the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data on carbon stocks and trends for seven different forest ecosystem carbon pools – above-ground live tree, below-ground live tree, standing dead, understory, down dead wood, forest floor and soil organic carbon – for the baseline period 1990 to 2013 (and 2005 to 2013, truncation of the longer baseline). These reports also provide estimates of carbon stored in HWP over longer time periods depending upon data availability. This is provided as a nationally consistent data set with which we can better understand geographic differences and important trends.

Carbon stock and trend information, in conjunction with companion assessments on forest carbon disturbances (currently being developed) will help inform forest managers and the public of the relationship between carbon storage and past management and disturbance impacts and to begin considering the short and long-term carbon consequences of alternative forest management strategies.

Due to these differences in sampling between periodic and annual inventories, there can be variation in the regional data between the two time series segments – pre 2000 and post 2000 (exact years dependent on individual state). As a result of these differences, the assessments on this page include carbon estimates for two baselines – 1990 to 2013, and 2005 to 2013.

Regional climate change coordinators have conferred with regional FIA leadership to designate which of the two baselines they will use. The Climate Change Advisor’s webpage has the assessments with the baseline period chosen by our regional staff and the rationale for using one baseline over the other. Both 1990 and 2005 are commonly used baseline years for international negotiations and therefore acceptable in planning and management decisions.

NFS Carbon Assessments Briefing Paper

Northern Region (R1) Report

Rocky Mountain Region (R2) Report

Southwestern Region (R3) Report

Intermountain Region (R4) Report

Pacific Southwest Region (R5) Report

Pacific Northwest Region (R6) Report

Southern Region (R8) Report

Eastern Region (R9) Report

Alaska Region (R10) Report

Contact Karen Dante ( for ecosystem carbon stocks and harvested wood products datasets.

New Methods and Results for Estimating
Carbon in Standing Dead Trees

Decay Reduction Factors

Structural Deduction Factors

Comparisons of Empirical vs Modeled Estimates

Photo of standing dead tree.

[image] of map

Estimates of downed dead wood biomass attributes across US forests

Methods and Results of First Carbon Field Inventory of US’ Dead and Downed Wood in Forests

Carbon Content


National Summary


Comparisons of Empirical vs Modeled Estimates

If a Tree Fell in a Forest Would a Forest Carbon Inventory Hear it?

Just because we have a forest inventory across the US doesn‘t mean we can statistically detect change in forest carbon stocks. Our ability to detect change in US forests is based on the inherent variation in the resource in addition to our sampling effort (e.g., number of plots)


Published Study:

[image] of graph.
Sampling effort needed to detect percentage change with statistical power of 0.8 at a = 0.05, 0.10, 0.20 for (a) standing live, (b) standing dead, and (c) all standing woody carbon pools.

Nonresponse and Greenhouse Gas Inventories

Map showing Nonresponse and Greenhouse Gas Inventories.

Nonresponse (i.e., missing observations) in the national forest inventory of the U.S. may contribute to differences in estimates of forest carbon stocks and stock changes reported in the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory. This study examined strategies to compensate for nonresponse using annual Forest Inventory and Analysis data. Results varied by state but given the annual reporting cycle and requirements to compile national estimates of forest carbon, it was deemed that techniques, where non-observed samples are removed from estimation procedures, provided the optimal combination of statistical performance and efficiency.


Published study:

Emerging markets for small-diameter roundwood along with a renewed interest in forest biomass for energy have created a need for estimates of merchantable biomass above the minimum sawlog top diameter for timber species in the national forest inventory (NFI) of the U.S. This article describes a method for estimating merchantable bole biomass for the sawlog component and the component above the minimum sawlog top diameter for timber species in the U.S.


Published study:

Estimating top biomass in trees

[image] Showing Estimates of top biomass in trees.

Comprehensive Documentation of US Inventory Approach
[image] Man measuring dead tree.

Most nations have ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and are mandated to report National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, including the land use, land use change and forestry sector when it is significant. To help meet these requirements, we describe the data and methods used to calculate the forest carbon component of the United States' greenhouse gas emissions and sinks which we provided to the US Environmental Protection Agency to be compiled for the submission years 2005-2011.


Published study:

A key component in describing forest carbon dynamics is the decomposition of woody debris. Refining estimates of woody debris decomposition is important for forecasting forest fuel loads and understanding the implications of using logging slash for bioenergy. This work quantifies the transition of decomposing logs into advanced decay classes to estimate the residence time of downed woody debris for 36 tree species occurring in the eastern US.


Published material:

Residence time of
downed woody debris

[image] Chart and graph of downed woody debris.


Percentage of the US' CO2 emissions sequestered in forests and associated wood products in 2012

Standard Tables of Forest Carbon Stock Estimates by State

2015 National Greenhouse Gas Documentation

Important Links

LULUCF Report Associated Annexes Total Forest Carbon Live Above Ground Live Below Ground Dead Wood Carbon Litter Soil Organic Carbon Carbon Calculation Tool EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory National Climate Assessment United Nations LULUCF Related Carbon Tools

USDA Forest Service
Last Modified: November 10, 2015

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