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UMD-led System Provides Key Forest Carbon Data for State’s Greenhouse Gas Monitoring

By Rachael Grahame ’17

A new report published by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) showing that the state is on track to meet its 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) targets and is the first in the nation to use a NASA-owned remote-sensing system developed by the University of Maryland for measuring carbon stored in forests.

In addition to highlighting how the state has exceeded its 2020 goal of reducing annual GHG emissions by 25% compared to 2006 levels, the report also uses insights from the forest carbon monitoring system to call attention to the role that forests can play in further reducing GHG emissions.

The system led by Professor George Hurtt of the Department of Geographical Sciences is part of the NASA Carbon Monitoring System, a collaborative effort between the University of Maryland, MDE, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, United States Climate Alliance, United States Forest Service, University of Vermont and World Resource Institute. It combines lidar data, optical imagery and ecosystem modeling.

“We have partnered for over a decade with the state of Maryland and others to develop and implement this new research capability for monitoring forest carbon. It is extremely gratifying to see it officially being used to meet state needs,” said Hurtt. “Next, we are expanding this research to national and global scales using spaceborne data from NASA GEDI and other missions.”

UMD undergraduates have implemented the same system used by MDE on campus via the student-led Campus Forest Carbon Project

(CFCP), which is advised by Hurtt and seeks to advance the university's goal of becoming carbon-neutral by adding accurate estimates of campus’ carbon footprint. The UMD Sustainability Council incorporated insights from the CFCP’s work into the “Carbon Neutrality” section of its Progress Hub.

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