CR 09:183-196 (1998)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr009183

Estimating the terrestrial carbon pools of the former Soviet Union, conterminous U.S., and Brazil

David P. Turner1,*, Jack K. Winjum2, Tatyana P. Kolchugina3, Ted S. Vinson3, Paul E. Schroeder4, Donald L. Phillips5, Michael A. Cairns5

1Department of Forest Science, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA
2National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, USEPA National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory/Western Ecology Division, 200 SW 35th Street, Corvallis, Oregon 97333, USA
3Department of Civil Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA
4Dynamac Corporation, USEPA National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory/Western Ecology Division, 200 SW 35th Street, Corvallis, Oregon 97333, USA
5U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory/Western Ecology Division, 200 SW 35th Street, Corvallis, Oregon 97333, USA

Terrestrial-carbon (C) pool sizes are of interest in relation to quantifying current sources and sinks of C, and evaluating the possibilities for future C sequestration or release by the biosphere. In this study, the C pools in the terrestrial ecosystems of the former Soviet Union (SUf), conterminous United States (USc), and Brazil were estimated for a nominal 1990 base year. Data sources included recent vegetation maps, resource inventories (particularly for forests), and published values for C densities (mass per unit area). Methodology varied by nation depending upon data availability but generally consisted of identifying a suitable land cover classification system, quantifying the area of each land cover type using traditional mapping approaches or satellite remote sensing, and assigning a mean C density to each cover type with separation by phytomass, litter plus coarse woody debris, and soil. Total organic C for the 3 geographic areas was estimated at 839 Pg (Pg = g × 1015) C in 1990, 38% of a literature-based estimate of the global terrestrial-C pool on an area representing 28% of the world's lands (excluding Antarctica). The soil C pool was the largest component in the SUf (84% of the total) and USc (76%) but not in Brazil (47%). Correspondingly, the proportion as phytomass was greatest in Brazil (48%) compared to the SUf (10%) and USc (17%). The forest land cover class contained by far the largest proportion of C among the land cover classes except in the SUf where peatlands were dominant with 37% of the total. The 2 largest C pools isolated in this study are potentially long-term sources of C to the atmosphere: soil C in peatlands of SUf (212 Pg) which may be lost via climate change, and phytomass C in the tropical-moist forests of Brazil (105 Pg) which may be lost via deforestation.


Carbon pools · Terrestrial ecosystems · Former Soviet Union · United States · Brazil


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