"For the first time ever, researchers now have a detailed view of the forests across the lower 48 states. Taking 6 years to complete, the National Biomass and Carbon Dataset project mapped our nation’s forests at the highest resolution ever (30 meters), providing baseline information about tree height, forest structure and carbon storage capability in the year 2000.
"It’s believed that as much as 45 percent of the carbon stored on land is tied up in trees. Western North Carolina’s unique climate has produced amazing biodiversity across our region and our important role in the Earth’s carbon cycle is evident in the dark green colors on the map above. The map depicts the concentration of biomass— a measure of the amount of organic carbon—stored in the trunks, limbs, and leaves of trees. The darkest greens reveal the areas with the densest, tallest, and most robust forest growth.
"And while it’s interesting to see the important role that our forests play in the role of carbon storage - it’s the detail of the new maps that will leave you stunned."
The image is an up-close look at Western North Carolina/Eastern Tennessee taken from a larger national map, McCown explains. "Heavily forested areas are dark green, lakes are light blue, and areas with less trees are lighter in color. Can you make out the major population centers in the region?" she continues. "If you look carefully, you can even see the corridors formed by major roadways such as I-40 through Buncombe County and Highway 19 through Madison and Yancey Counties."
McCown credits NASA Earth Observatory mapper Robert Simmon, who used multiple data sets compiled and analyzed at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. You can find NASA’s story on the project here.
Want to study this stuff in greater detail? Check out the classes offered by the Institute for Climate Education, including those explaining how the weather and climate of Western North Carolina have helped to create our region’s amazing biodiversity.