- Assess the current and potential carbon balance (stocks and fluxes) in major terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
- Evaluate the effects of both natural and anthropogenic driving forces on ecosystem carbon balance and greenhouse gas fluxes
- Develop carbon monitoring methods and capabilities
- Conduct research and provide science support for increasing carbon sequestration in land management policies and practices
Since 2010, the USGS has released a methodology (USGS Scientific Investigations Report 5233) for the national assessment of biologic carbon sequestration, completed the assessment for the conterminous United States divided in three regional reports (USGS Professional Papers 1787- Great Plains, 1797- Western US, and 1804- Eastern US), and developed and released a web site (landcarbon.org) for data distribution and visualization. In addition, a number of research papers have been published in leading journals by USGS and academic scientists supported by the program.
New focus areas of the program are now on three priority areas: 1) continued assessment activities in the conterminous United States and Alaska and Hawaii, 2) research activities for ecosystem carbon balance and development/enhancement of models and methods, and 3) carbon sequestration application studies in support of Department of the Interior land management decision making.
- Assessment activities will include completion of Alaska and Hawaii, ensuring that reports are published and data products are made available in a public release. Three USGS reports will be produced: Alaska assessment, Hawaii assessment, and a report on carbon effects of protected areas and potential natural vegetation in the conterminous United States. The national data will be maintained on the web site for distribution and visualization. To assist users with using the data to answer broad questions related to carbon sequestration, an interactive "carbon calculator" will be produced and be made available online. Funding will also be provided to support synthesis activities that produce science papers analyzing carbon effects of major driving forces such as climate change, land use, major land management, and ecosystem disturbances.
- Research projects will be supported that target the following priorities: enhancing USGS capabilities in accounting, modeling, and monitoring of ecosystem carbon balance estimates, improving scientific understanding of priority ecosystems in relation to climate change, land use, and carbon management activities, and narrowing uncertainties in carbon balance estimates (such as uncertainties due to measurements, model performances, or terrestrial-aquatic interactions). Research projects continued from 2015 will be reviewed for progress and achievements. New FY 2016 starts will be funded on the basis of well-documented study plans.
- Funding support will continue for ongoing, collaborative application projects that support DOI land management incorporating carbon sequestration, such as an ongoing study at Atlantic coastal wetland wildlife refuges. Objectives of these research projects are to estimate carbon sequestration rates and carbon balance in relation to ecosystem management and restoration actions, and provide tradeoff analysis supporting increased carbon sequestration as one of multiple ecosystem services. In FY 2016, new collaboration opportunities with Department of the Interior land management agencies (e.g. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the National Park Service (NPS), the Bureaus of Land Management (BLM), and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)) will be explored. Potential opportunities could include assessing Pacific coastal wetland resilience in response to climate change and sea level rise, developing modeling studies in boreal Alaska peatland and permafrost habitats with onset of increased wildfire and thermokarst disturbances, collaborative studies that analyzes carbon sequestration opportunities and/or vulnerability carbon stock in the Great Basin in relation to grazing and habitat management, and ecosystem restoration and avoided loss in relation to informed wildfire management actions.