National forest carbon inventories: Policy needs and assessment capacity

Krister Andersson, Tom P. Evans, Kenneth R. Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Previous research has identified the importance of the role of land cover in the global carbon cycle. In particular, forests have been identified as a significant carbon sink that can mitigate the rate of global climate change. Policy makers are faced with complex and difficult challenges in getting timely and useful information in monitoring global forest resources. Recent advances in the tools and methods of forest carbon accounting have produced new, innovative approaches to forest-based carbon inventories. But it is important as new tools are developed that scientists understand the needs of policy makers and that policy makers understand the capabilities and limitations of forest inventory methods. This paper explores four different policy applications that rely, or could benefit from, national carbon inventories. The goal is to help build a bridge between the communities of climate policy makers and scientists specialized in forest carbon inventories. To this end, we pursue three specific objectives: First we provide an overview for policy makers about approaches to forest carbon inventories, paying particular attention to the contributions of remote sensing technologies. Second, we outline the issues particularly relevant to forest inventory scientists who are interested in responding to public policy needs. We then discuss the tradeoffs between information cost, accuracy, precision, transparency and timeliness that need to be balanced in long-term monitoring of forest carbon. Finally, the article concludes with a series of observations and recommendations for the implementation of forest carbon inventories as increasingly central components of global climate change policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-101
Number of pages33
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


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