Monitoring network confirms land use change is a substantial component of the forest carbon sink in the eastern United States
Quantifying forest carbon (C) stocks and stock change within a matrix of land use (LU) and LU change is a central component of large-scale forest C monitoring and reporting practices prescribed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Using a region–wide, repeated forest inventory, forest C stocks and stock change by pool were examined by LU categories. In eastern US forests, LU change is a substantial component of C sink strength (~37% of forest sink strength) only secondary to that of C accumulation in forests remaining forest where their comingling with other LUs does not substantially reduce sink strength. The strongest sinks of forest C were study areas not completely dominated by forests, even when there was some loss of forest to agriculture/settlement/ other LUs. Long-term LU planning exercises and policy development that seeks to maintain and/ or enhance regional C sinks should explicitly recognize the importance of maximizing non-forest to forest LU changes and not overlook management and conservation of forests located in landscapes not currently dominated by forests.