Developing a set of indicators to identify, monitor, and track impacts and change in forests of the United States
United States forestland is an important ecosystem type, land cover, land use, and economic resource that is facing several drivers of change including climatic. Because of its significance, forestland was identified through the National Climate Assessment (NCA) as a key sector and system of concern to be included in a system of climate indicators as part of a sustained assessment effort. Here, we describe 11 informative core indicators of forests and climate change impacts with metrics available or nearly available for use in the NCA efforts. The recommended indicators are based on a comprehensive conceptual model which recognizes forests as a land use, an ecosystem, and an economic sector. The indicators cover major forest attributes such as extent, structural components such as biomass, functions such as growth and productivity, and ecosystem services such as biodiversity and outdoor recreation. Interactions between humans and forests are represented through indicators focused on the wildland-urban interface, cost to mitigate wildfire risk, and energy produced from forest-based biomass. Selected indicators also include drought and disturbance from both wildfires and biotic agents. The forest indicators presented are an initial set that will need further refinement in coordination with other NCA indicator teams. Our effort ideally will initiate the collection of critical measurements and observations and lead to additional research on forest-climate indicators.