The quantity and condition of downed dead wood (DDW) is emerging as a major factor governing forest ecosystem processes such as carbon cycling, fire behavior, and tree regeneration. Despite this, systematic inventories of DDW are sparse if not absent across major forest biomes. The Forest Inventory and Analysis program of the United States (US) Forest Service has conducted an annual DDW inventory on all coterminous US forest land since 2002 (~1 plot per 38,850 ha), with a sample intensification occurring since 2012 (~1 plot per 19,425 ha). The data are organized according to DDW components and by sampling information which can all be linked to a multitude of auxiliary information in the national database. As the sampling of DDW is conducted using field efficient line-intersect approaches, several assumptions are adopted during population estimation that serve to identify critical knowledge gaps. The plot-and population-level DDW datasets and estimates provide the first insights into an understudied but critical ecosystem component of temperate forests of North America with global application.
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The authors acknowledge the contribution of hundreds of foresters who collected these data across all the forests of the United States for nearly two decades, along with the data management staff who work to ensure data quality and public dissemination.
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