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A land-use and land-cover modeling strategy to support a national assessment of carbon stocks and fluxes

February 29, 2012

Changes in land use, land cover, disturbance regimes, and land management have considerable influence on carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes within ecosystems. Through targeted land-use and land-management activities, ecosystems can be managed to enhance carbon sequestration and mitigate fluxes of other GHGs. National-scale, comprehensive analyses of carbon sequestration potential by ecosystem are needed, with a consistent, nationally applicable land-use and land-cover (LULC) modeling framework a key component of such analyses. The U.S. Geological Survey has initiated a project to analyze current and projected future GHG fluxes by ecosystem and quantify potential mitigation strategies. We have developed a unique LULC modeling framework to support this work. Downscaled scenarios consistent with IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) were constructed for U.S. ecoregions, and the FORE-SCE model was used to spatially map the scenarios. Results for a prototype demonstrate our ability to model LULC change and inform a biogeochemical modeling framework for analysis of subsequent GHG fluxes. The methodology was then successfully used to model LULC change for four IPCC SRES scenarios for an ecoregion in the Great Plains. The scenario-based LULC projections are now being used to analyze potential GHG impacts of LULC change across the U.S.