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A remote sensing-based model of tidal marsh aboveground carbon stocks for the conterminous United States

April 12, 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). We developed the first calibration-grade, 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. Using the random forest machine learning algorithm, we tested whether imagery from multiple sensors, Sentinel-1 C-band synthetic aperture radar, Landsat, and the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP), 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 for a range of marsh plant functional types defined by height, leaf angle and growth form. Model results were improved by scaling field-measured biomass calibration data by NAIP-derived 30 m fraction green vegetation. With a mean plant carbon content of 44.1% (n = 1384, 95% C.I. = 43.99%–44.37%), we generated regional 30 m aboveground carbon density maps for estuarine and palustrine emergent tidal marshes as indicated by a modified NOAA Coastal Change Analysis Program map. We applied a multivariate delta method to calculate uncertainties in regional carbon densities and stocks 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). Estimated C stocks for predefined jurisdictional areas ranged from 1023 ± 39 Mg in the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Washington to 507,761 ± 14,822 Mg in the Terrebonne and St. Mary Parishes in Louisiana. This modeling and data synthesis effort will allow for aboveground C stocks in tidal marshes to be included in the coastal wetland section of the U.S. National Greenhouse Gas Inventory. With the increased availability of free post-processed satellite data, we provide a tractable means of modeling tidal marsh aboveground biomass and carbon at the global extent as well.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2018
Title A remote sensing-based model of tidal marsh aboveground carbon stocks for the conterminous United States
DOI 10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2018.03.019
Authors Kristin B. Byrd, Laurel Ballanti, Nathan Thomas, Dung Nguyen, James R. Holmquist, Marc Simard, Lisamarie Windham-Myers
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
Series Number
Index ID 70196478
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Geographic Science Center