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Tidal marsh biomass field plot and remote sensing datasets for six regions in the conterminous United States

April 10, 2018

Remote sensing based maps of tidal marshes, both of their extents and carbon stocks, have the potential to play a key role in conducting greenhouse gas inventories and implementing climate mitigation policies. Our objective was to generate a single remote sensing model of tidal marsh aboveground biomass and carbon that represents nationally diverse tidal marshes within the conterminous United States (CONUS). To meet this objective we developed the first national-scale dataset of aboveground tidal marsh biomass, species composition, and aboveground plant carbon content (%C) from six CONUS regions: Cape Cod, MA, Chesapeake Bay, MD, Everglades, FL, Mississippi Delta, LA, San Francisco Bay, CA, and Puget Sound, WA. We tested how plant community composition and vegetation structure differences across estuaries influence model development, and whether data from multiple sensors, in particular Sentinel-1 C-band synthetic aperture radar and Landsat, can improve model performance. The final model, driven by six Landsat vegetation indices and with the soil adjusted vegetation index as the most important (n=409, RMSE=310 g/m2, 10.3% normalized RMSE), successfully predicted biomass and carbon for a range of marsh plant functional types defined by height, leaf angle and growth form. Model error was reduced by scaling field measured biomass by Landsat fraction green vegetation derived from object-based classification of National Agriculture Imagery Program imagery. We generated 30m resolution biomass maps for estuarine and palustrine emergent tidal marshes as indicated by a modified NOAA Coastal Change Analysis Program map for each region. With a mean plant %C of 44.1% (n=1384, 95% C.I.=43.99% - 44.37%) we estimated mean aboveground carbon densities (Mg/ha) and total carbon stocks for each wetland type for each region. We applied a multivariate delta method to calculate uncertainties in regional carbon estimates that considered standard error in map area, mean biomass and mean %C. Louisiana palustrine emergent marshes had the highest C density (2.67 0.004 Mg/ha) of all regions, while San Francisco Bay brackish/saline marshes had the highest C density of all estuarine emergent marshes (2.03 0.004 Mg/ha). This modeling and data synthesis effort will allow for aboveground C stocks in tidal marshes to be included for the first time in the 2018 U.S. EPA National Greenhouse Gas Inventory for coastal wetlands. With the increased availability of cloud computing platforms and freely available software and post-processed satellite data, we provide a tractable means of modeling tidal marsh aboveground biomass and carbon at the global scale as well.

These data include the tidal marsh biomass field plots and remote sensing datasets used to produced the aboveground tidal marsh biomass and plant carbon content (%C) estimates.