Local discrepancies in continental scale biomass maps: a case study over forested and non-forested landscapes in Maryland, USA
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Continental-scale aboveground biomass maps are increasingly available, but their estimates vary widely, particularly at high resolution. A comprehensive understanding of map discrepancies is required to improve their effectiveness in carbon accounting and local decision-making. To this end, we compare four continental-scale maps with a recent high-resolution lidar-derived biomass map over Maryland, USA. We conduct detailed comparisons at pixel-, county-, and state-level. Spatial patterns of biomass are broadly consistent in all maps, but there are large differences at fine scales (RMSD 48.5–92.7 Mg ha−1). Discrepancies reduce with aggregation and the agreement among products improves at the county level. However, continental scale maps exhibit residual negative biases in mean (33.0–54.6 Mg ha−1) and total biomass (3.5–5.8 Tg) when compared to the high-resolution lidar biomass map. Three of the four continental scale maps reach near-perfect agreement at ~4 km and onward but do not converge with the high-resolution biomass map even at county scale. At the State level, these maps underestimate biomass by 30–80 Tg in forested and 40–50 Tg in non-forested areas. Local discrepancies in continental scale biomass maps are caused by factors including data inputs, modeling approaches, forest/non-forest definitions and time lags. There is a net underestimation over high biomass forests and non-forested areas that could impact carbon accounting at all levels. Local, high-resolution lidar-derived biomass maps provide a valuable bottom-up reference to improve the analysis and interpretation of large-scale maps produced in carbon monitoring systems.