Topic 3: Forest Carbon Accounting

Background Information

Although there are various methods for measuring forest carbon storage and budgets, biometrics is a widely accepted method to clarify the function of forest ecosystems in carbon accumulation. On a regional scale, satellite remote sensing is an irreplaceable tool due to its high labor and cost efficiency. However, indirect approaches (e.g., spectral-related model) should be based on ground observation for both training and validation. Ground investigation for carbon storage can be achieved by harvesting or dendrometric models. Destructive harvest is useful for the herb layer and, occasionally the shrub layer, but is impractical for the canopy layer. Dendrometric models are acknowledged for their accuracy and universality as a way of non-destructive measurement. The most necessary tools for estimating forest biomass are individual-based regression models (i.e., equations relating biomass to easy-to-measure metrics like diameter and height). Although many species have been studied for the purpose of establishing regression models, there is not enough data to estimate the biomass of multi-species communities. Accurately measuring the biomass and its dynamics in forest stands by on-site investigation not only clarifies the function of autotrophic organisms, but also validates data or parameters for large-scale models. Gas exchange or flux is widely used to illustrate carbon balance in high temporal resolution. As a forest manager you need to know the basic methods for determining forest carbon in both storage and sequestration.

Video Lectures

View the following video lectures:

2.3.1 Sample tree method for biomass measurement

2.3.2 Stand biomass by regressive models

2.3.3 Tree biomass models by nested regression

2.3.4 Measuring carbon exchange between forest and the atmosphere

Additional Resources

  1. Goers, L., Ashton, M. S., Tyrrell, M. L. (2012). Managing forest carbon in a changing climate. Springer, 414pp. Retrieved from
    This book introduces the basic methods for measuring forest carbon storage by plot survey, and the strategy for enhancing forest carbon sequestration. Carbon storage and dynamics of the world’s main forest biomes are illustrated.
  1. Hoover, C. M. (eds). (2008). Field measurements for forest carbon monitoring. Springer, 224pp. Retrieved from
    This book describes the methods for measuring forest carbon storage and sequestration in different scales. Component specific carbon accounting is explained in detail. Carbon dynamics by flux observation is also introduced.
  1. Lorenz, K., Lal, R. (2010). Carbon sequestration in forest ecosystem. Springer, 277pp. Retrieved from
    This book summarizes the methods for estimating forest carbon storage and sequestration under natural condition and human impacts. Carbon pools and dynamics of major forest biomes are described by reviewing the current status of research. Factors limiting carbon sequestration are also reviews.

Self-test for Topic 3

Reflection Questions:

  1. How do you estimate aboveground biomass using the mean sample tree method?
  2. How do you regress biomass against DBH?
  3. How do you establish a regressive model for estimating branch biomass with nested regression?
  4. Summarize the principles for carbon budget with gas exchange.

After formulating your answers, you may post them online at the Knowledge Café for this course as a way to share your ideas and glean knowledge from other students’ responses.