U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service -- National Agroforestry Center


Date of this Version



Land Use Policy 59 (2016) pp. 536–542.


U.S. government work.


The United States provides annual estimates of carbon sources and sinks as part of its National Green-house Gas Inventory (NGHGI). Within this effort, carbon stocks and fluxes are reported for six land use categories that are relevant to economic sectors and land use policy. The goal of this study is to develop methodologies that will allow the US to align with an internationally agreed upon forest land use definition which requires forest to be able to reach 5 m in height at maturity. Models to assess height potential are available for a majority of US forests except for woodland ecosystems. We develop a set of models to assess height potential in these systems. Our results suggest that ∼13.5 million ha of forests are unlikely to meet the international definition of forests due to environmental limitations to maximum attainable height. The incorporation of this height criteria in the NGHGI results in a carbon stock transfer of ∼848 Tg from the forest land use to woodland land use (a sub-category of grasslands) with minimal effect on sequestration rates. The development of a forest land use definition sensitive to climatic factors in this study enables a land use classification system that can be responsive to climate change effects on land uses themselves while being more consistent across a host of international and domestic carbon reporting efforts.