InVEST Carbon Storage and Sequestration model

The InVEST Carbon Storage and Sequestration model estimates the current amount of carbon stored in a landscape and values the amount of sequestered carbon over time. The carbon model can also optionally perform scenario analysis according to the Reducing Emissions from Forest Degradation and Deforestation (REDD) and REDD+ frameworks.

CarbonStorageSequestrationlandscapesequestered carbon



Initial contribute: 2019-07-14


Stanford University
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Application-focused categoriesNatural-perspectiveLand regions

Detailed Description

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Terrestrial ecosystems, which store more carbon than the atmosphere, are vital to influencing carbon dioxide-driven climate change. The InVEST Carbon Storage and Sequestration model uses maps of land use along with stocks in four carbon pools (aboveground biomass, belowground biomass, soil and dead organic matter) to estimate the amount of carbon currently stored in a landscape or the amount of carbon sequestered over time. Additional data on the market or social value of sequestered carbon and its annual rate of change, and a discount rate can be used to optionally estimate the value of this ecosystem service to society. Limitations of the model include an oversimplified carbon cycle, an assumed linear change in carbon sequestration over time, and potentially inaccurate discounting rates.


Ecosystems regulate Earth’s climate by adding and removing greenhouse gases (GHG) such as CO2 from the atmosphere. Forests, grasslands, peat swamps, and other terrestrial ecosystems collectively store much more carbon than does the atmosphere (Lal 2002). By storing this carbon in wood, other biomass, and soil, ecosystems keep CO2 out of the atmosphere, where it would contribute to climate change. Beyond just storing carbon, many systems also continue to accumulate it in plants and soil over time, thereby “sequestering” additional carbon each year. Disturbing these systems with fire, disease, or vegetation conversion (e.g., land use / land cover (LULC) conversion) can release large amounts of CO2. Other management changes, like forest restoration or alternative agricultural practices, can lead to the storage of large amounts of CO2. Therefore, the ways in which we manage terrestrial ecosystems are critical to regulating our climate.

Terrestrial-based carbon sequestration and storage is perhaps the most widely recognized of all ecosystem services (Stern 2007, IPCC 2006, Canadell and Raupach 2008, Capoor and Ambrosi 2008, Hamilton et al. 2008, Pagiola 2008). The social value of a sequestered ton of carbon is equal to the social damage avoided by not releasing the ton of carbon into the atmosphere (Tol 2005, Stern 2007). Calculations of social cost are complicated and controversial (see Weitzman 2007 and Nordhaus 2007b), but have resulted in value estimates that range from USD $9.55 to $84.55 per metric ton of CO2 released into the atmosphere (Nordhaus 2007a and Stern 2007, respectively).

Managing landscapes for carbon storage and sequestration requires information about how much and where carbon is stored, how much carbon is sequestered or lost over time, and how shifts in land use affect the amount of carbon stored and sequestered over time. Since land managers must choose among sites for protection, harvest, or development, maps of carbon storage and sequestration are ideal for supporting decisions influencing these ecosystem services.

Such maps can support a range of decisions by governments, NGOs, and businesses. For example, governments can use them to identify opportunities to earn credits for reduced (carbon) emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). Knowing which parts of a landscape store the most carbon would help governments efficiently target incentives to landowners in exchange for forest conservation. Additionally, a conservation NGO may wish to invest in areas where high levels of biodiversity and carbon sequestration overlap (Nelson et al. 2008). A timber company may also want to maximize its returns from both timber production and REDD carbon credits (Plantinga and Birdsey 1994).

The Model

Carbon storage on a land parcel largely depends on the sizes of four carbon pools: aboveground biomass, belowground biomass, soil, and dead organic matter. The InVEST Carbon Storage and Sequestration model aggregates the amount of carbon stored in these pools according to land use maps and classifications provided by the user. Aboveground biomass comprises all living plant material above the soil (e.g., bark, trunks, branches, leaves). Belowground biomass encompasses the living root systems of aboveground biomass. Soil organic matter is the organic component of soil, and represents the largest terrestrial carbon pool. Dead organic matter includes litter as well as lying and standing dead wood.

Using maps of land use and land cover types and the amount of carbon stored in carbon pools, this model estimates the net amount of carbon stored in a land parcel over time and the market value of the carbon sequestered in remaining stock. Limitations of the model include an oversimplified carbon cycle, an assumed linear change in carbon sequestration over time, and potentially inaccurate discounting rates. Biophysical conditions important for carbon sequestration such as photosynthesis rates and the presence of active soil organisms are also not included in the model.



Natural Capital Project (2019). InVEST Carbon Storage and Sequestration model, Model Item, OpenGMS,


Initial contribute : 2019-07-14



Stanford University
Is authorship not correct? Feed back

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