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Journal: Carbon balance and management


Livestock play an important role in carbon cycling through consumption of biomass and emissions of methane. Recent research suggests that existing bottom-up inventories of livestock methane emissions in the US, such as those made using 2006 IPCC Tier 1 livestock emissions factors, are too low. This may be due to outdated information used to develop these emissions factors. In this study, we update information for cattle and swine by region, based on reported recent changes in animal body mass, feed quality and quantity, milk productivity, and management of animals and manure. We then use this updated information to calculate new livestock methane emissions factors for enteric fermentation in cattle, and for manure management in cattle and swine.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Milk, Carbon, Mammal, Cattle, Meat, Methane, Enteric fermentation


BACKGROUND: Lidar height data collected by the Geosciences Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) from 2002 to 2008 has the potential to form the basis of a globally consistent sample-based inventory of forest biomass. GLAS lidar return data were collected globally in spatially discrete full waveform “shots,” which have been shown to be strongly correlated with aboveground forest biomass. Relationships observed at spatially coincident field plots may be used to model biomass at all GLAS shots, and well-established methods of model-based inference may then be used to estimate biomass and variance for specific spatial domains. However, the spatial pattern of GLAS acquisition is neither random across the surface of the earth nor is it identifiable with any particular systematic design. Undefined sample properties therefore hinder the use of GLAS in global forest sampling. RESULTS: We propose a method of identifying a subset of the GLAS data which can justifiably be treated as a simple random sample in model-based biomass estimation. The relatively uniform spatial distribution and locally arbitrary positioning of the resulting sample is similar to the design used by the US national forest inventory (NFI). We demonstrated model-based estimation using a sample of GLAS data in the US state of California, where our estimate of biomass (211 Mg/hectare) was within the 1.4% standard error of the design-based estimate supplied by the US NFI. The standard error of the GLAS-based estimate was significantly higher than the NFI estimate, although the cost of the GLAS estimate (excluding costs for the satellite itself) was almost nothing, compared to at least US$ 10.5 million for the NFI estimate. CONCLUSIONS: Global application of model-based estimation using GLAS, while demanding significant consolidation of training data, would improve inter-comparability of international biomass estimates by imposing consistent methods and a globally coherent sample frame. The methods presented here constitute a globally extensible approach for generating a simple random sample from the global GLAS dataset, enabling its use in forest inventory activities.

Concepts: Statistics, Variance, Mathematics, Simple random sample, Sample size, Estimation theory, Estimator, Sampling


Urban forests reduce greenhouse gas emissions by storing and sequestering considerable amounts of carbon. However, few studies have considered the local scale of urban forests to effectively evaluate their potential long-term carbon offset. The lack of precise, consistent and up-to-date forest details is challenging for long-term prognoses. Therefore, this review aims to identify uncertainties in urban forest carbon offset assessment and discuss the extent to which such uncertainties can be reduced by recent progress in high resolution remote sensing. We do this by performing an extensive literature review and a case study combining remote sensing and life cycle assessment of urban forest carbon offset in Berlin, Germany.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Carbon dioxide, Carbon, Climate change, Germany, Recycling, Greenhouse gas, Life cycle assessment


Several independent lines of evidence suggest that Amazon forests have provided a significant carbon sink service, and also that the Amazon carbon sink in intact, mature forests may now be threatened as a result of different processes. There has however been no work done to quantify non-land-use-change forest carbon fluxes on a national basis within Amazonia, or to place these national fluxes and their possible changes in the context of the major anthropogenic carbon fluxes in the region. Here we present a first attempt to interpret results from ground-based monitoring of mature forest carbon fluxes in a biogeographically, politically, and temporally differentiated way. Specifically, using results from a large long-term network of forest plots, we estimate the Amazon biomass carbon balance over the last three decades for the different regions and nine nations of Amazonia, and evaluate the magnitude and trajectory of these differentiated balances in relation to major national anthropogenic carbon emissions.

Concepts: Climate change, Amazon River, Rainforest, Tropical rainforest, Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, Amazon Rainforest, Slash and burn, Peruvian Amazon


Locating terrestrial sources and sinks of carbon © will be critical to developing strategies that contribute to the climate change mitigation goals of the Paris Agreement. Here we present spatially resolved estimates of net C change across United States (US) forest lands between 2006 and 2010 and attribute them to natural and anthropogenic processes.

Concepts: Ecosystem, Climate change, Oceanic climate, Global warming


Urban trees have long been valued for providing ecosystem services (mitigation of the “heat island” effect, suppression of air pollution, etc.); more recently the potential of urban forests to store significant above ground biomass (AGB) has also be recognised. However, urban areas pose particular challenges when assessing AGB due to plasticity of tree form, high species diversity as well as heterogeneous and complex land cover. Remote sensing, in particular light detection and ranging (LiDAR), provide a unique opportunity to assess urban AGB by directly measuring tree structure. In this study, terrestrial LiDAR measurements were used to derive new allometry for the London Borough of Camden, that incorporates the wide range of tree structures typical of an urban setting. Using a wall-to-wall airborne LiDAR dataset, individual trees were then identified across the Borough with a new individual tree detection (ITD) method. The new allometry was subsequently applied to the identified trees, generating a Borough-wide estimate of AGB.


The credibility and effectiveness of country climate targets under the Paris Agreement requires that, in all greenhouse gas (GHG) sectors, the accounted mitigation outcomes reflect genuine deviations from the type and magnitude of activities generating emissions in the base year or baseline. This is challenging for the forestry sector, as the future net emissions can change irrespective of actual management activities, because of age-related stand dynamics resulting from past management and natural disturbances. The solution implemented under the Kyoto Protocol (2013-2020) was accounting mitigation as deviation from a projected (forward-looking) “forest reference level”, which considered the age-related dynamics but also allowed including the assumed future implementation of approved policies. This caused controversies, as unverifiable counterfactual scenarios with inflated future harvest could lead to credits where no change in management has actually occurred, or conversely, failing to reflect in the accounts a policy-driven increase in net emissions. Instead, here we describe an approach to set reference levels based on the projected continuation of documented historical forest management practice, i.e. reflecting age-related dynamics but not the future impact of policies. We illustrate a possible method to implement this approach at the level of the European Union (EU) using the Carbon Budget Model.


A large proportion of the world’s tropical peatlands occur in Indonesia where rapid conversion and associated losses of carbon, biodiversity and ecosystem services have brought peatland management to the forefront of Indonesia’s climate mitigation efforts. We evaluated peat volume from two commonly referenced maps of peat distribution and depth published by Wetlands International (WI) and the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), and used regionally specific values of carbon density to calculate carbon stocks.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Soil, Ecosystem, Fossil fuel, Coal, Ecosystem services, Bog, Everglades


High fidelity carbon mapping has the potential to greatly advance national resource management and to encourage international action toward climate change mitigation. However, carbon inventories based on field plots alone cannot capture the heterogeneity of carbon stocks, and thus remote sensing-assisted approaches are critically important to carbon mapping at regional to global scales. We advanced a high-resolution, national-scale carbon mapping approach applied to the Republic of Panama – one of the first UN REDD + partner countries.

Concepts: Climate change, Global warming, Home cinema


A recent article by Luyssaert et al. (Nature 562:259-262, 2018) analyses the climate impact of forest management in the European Union, considering both biogeochemical (i.e., greenhouse gases, GHG) and biophysical (e.g., albedo, transpiration, etc.) effects. Based on their findings, i.e. that additional net overall climate benefits from forest management would be modest, the authors conclude that the EU “should not rely on forest management to mitigate climate change”. We first explain that most of the additional EU GHG mitigation effort by 2030 is expected to come¬†from emission reductions and only a very small part from forestry, even when forest bioenergy is allowed for.¬†Nevertheless, the inclusion of forest management in climate change mitigation strategies is key to identifying the country-specific optimal mix, in terms of overall GHG balance, between strategies focused on conserving and/or enhancing the sink and strategies focused on using more wood to reduce emissions in other GHG sectors. Then, while acknowledging the importance that biophysical effects have on the climate, especially at the local and seasonal scale, we argue that the net annual biophysical climate impact of forest management in Europe remains more uncertain than the net CO2 impact. This has not been adequately emphasized by Luyssaert et al. (2018), leading to conclusions on the net overall climate impact of forest management that we consider premature and applied to a partially biased perception of European policy towards forestry and climate change. To avoid further confusion in the debate on how forestry may contribute to mitigating climate change, a more constructive dialogue between the scientific community and policy makers is needed.