Great Dismal Swamp carbon dynamics

Science Center Objects

The Land Use and Carbon Scenario Simulator (LUCAS) model was used to develop a baseline carbon (C) budget for the Great Dismal Swamp, VA., using an annualized Stock-Flow approach. The model infrastructure will be used going forward to assist with future land management and ecosystem services assessments.



Landsat 5 image of the Lateral West fire in Great Dismal Swamp

(Credit: Landsat 5, USGS. Public domain.)Landsat 5 image of the Lateral West fire

Project Description

The Great Dismal Swamp (GDS) project is an application of USGS LandCarbon, in support of DOI land management activities. The GDS project uses the Land Use and Carbon Scenario Simulator (LUCAS) model to produce local-scale carbon estimates (including fluxes, net ecosystem balance, and long-term sequestration rates) to include in an ecosystem service assessment at the GDS National Wildlife Refuge.

LUCAS integrates a state-and-transition simulation model with a carbon stock-flow model to characterize key controlling processes (i.e. hydrology and fire) and their associated effects on land-management activities (i.e. re-wetting, forest restoration, and fire management).


LUCAS model calibration consisted of running the model for a 300-year period in order to validate the forest age to biomass relationships, annual stock and flow transfer rates, and emission rates followed by disturbance.

To test the utility of the LUCAS model application for the Great Dismal Swamp, we modeled the historic time period of 1985-2015, using the calibrated forest growth curves, stock and flow rates, and known fire data (spatial location, patch size, and year/severity of disturbance). Results from the model testing are compared to the recent C loss estimates from the South One and Lateral West fire events (Reddy, 2015).

LUCC - Carbon budget for the Great Dismal Swamp

(Public domain.)Carbon budget for the Great Dismal Swamp.

For more information on the project go to The Great Dismal Swamp Project website and the Land Use and Climate Change Team website.