Zhiliang Zhu


I am the chief of USGS Biologic Carbon Sequestration Program. The program focuses on assessment of carbon stocks, fluxes, and sequestration potential in major terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, understanding the effects of both natural and anthropogentic driving forces, developing carbon monitoring methods and capabilities, and providing technical support for increasing carbon sequestration in public land management. My responsiblities include developing program strategy, coordinating for research activities, tracking progress and achievements, making funding decisions, publishing results, and communicating about the program within USGS and with external stakeholders. In addition, I represent USGS as a lead scientist in external activities, including USGCRP Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group, other interagency or international working groups, university committees, and collaborations. For more information, visit http://www.usgs.gov/climate_landuse/carbon_seq/.

Professional experiences:

  • 2008-present: Physical scientist and program chief, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA 20192
  • 2007-2008: National remote sensing leader, USDA Forest Service, Washington DC 20250
  • 2000-2007: Research scientist, U.S. Geological Survey, EROS Data Center, Sioux Falls, SD 57198
  • 1994-2000: Principal scientist, Raytheon, EROS Data Center, Sioux Falls, SD 57198
  • 1990-1994: Research scientist, USDA Forest Service, Starkville, MS 39759


  • 1989: PhD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Dissertation: detection and analysis of Swiss needlecast disease of Douglas fir trees
  • 1984: M.S., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Thesis: hyperspectral airborne remote sensing of vegetation stress
  • 1982: B.S., Nanjing Forestry University, Nanjing, China



Major research conducted:

  • Chief scientist of the USGS national assessment of greenhouse gas fluxes and carbon sequestration capacities. The project has an overall objective of improving understanding of the ecosystem carbon balance controlled by major and interrelated natural and anthropogenic processes including climate change, land-use change, land management, and ecosystem disturbances such as wildfire and insect outbreaks.  The assessment covers all major ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, agricultural lands, wetlands, and aquatic systems (rivers, lakes, and estuaries), and is spatially explicit at a regional scale.  Both the current conditions (e.g. the baseline), and a set of future scenarios (e.g. projections) are analyzed, along with other key science issues such as the feedback loop between climate change, permafrost thaw, soil carbon release, surface hydrology, and increased wildfires in Alaska’s boreal forests.  I led the project team, developed data and methods, published major reports, and communicated about the results. 
  • Principal investigator of the U.S. interagency LANDFIRE (Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools) project. The central objective of the project was to develop a national spatially-explicit database of vegetation, wildfire fuels, and fire regime conditions at a spatial scale of 30 meters that were capable of supporting both fire management and fire research needs at the landscape levels.  Key research activities included establishing relationships between existing vegetation, potential vegetation, fire fuel characteristics, vegetation succession conditions, and fire regime departure indexes.  I also worked on a methodology to maintain and update the national database, which has enabled the project to continue today and become an operational asset for national land management activities.  The most significant result of the project was that it changed how fire suppression operations and management operated in the United States: major management aspects can now be based on decision-support systems using LANDFIRE as consistent and constant input data.




Zhu, Zhiliang, and McGuire, A.D., eds., 2016, Baseline and projected future carbon storage and greenhouse-gas fluxes in ecosystems of Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1826, 196 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/pp1826.

Reddy, A.D., Hawbaker, T.J., Wurster, F., Zhu, Z., Ward, S., Newcomb, D., and Murray, R., 2015. Quantifying carbon loss and uncertainty from a peatland wildfire using multi-temporal LiDAR. Remote Sensing of Environment, 170:306-316, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2015.09.017

Chang, Y., Zhu, Z., Bu, R., Li, Y., and Hu, Y. 2015. Environmental controls on the characteristics of mean number of forest fires and mean forest areas burned (1987-2007) in China, Forest Ecology and Management, doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2015.07.012

Huang, C., Ling, P.Y., and Zhu, Z. 2015. North Carolina’s forest disturbance and timber production assessed using time series Landsat observations, International Journal of Digital Earth, doi:10.1080/17538947.2015.1034200

Zhao, F., Huang, C., and Zhu, Z. 2015. Use of vegetation change tracker and support vector machine to map disturbance types in Greater Yellowstone Ecosystems in a 1984-2010 Landsat time series, Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters, IEEE 12: 1650-1654. doi: 10.1109/LGRS.2015.2418159

Clow, D.W., Stackpoole, S.M., Verdin, K.L., Butman, D., Zhu, Z., Krabbenhoft, D.P., and Striegl, R.G. 2015. Organic carbon burial in lakes and reservoirs of the conterminous United States, Environmental Science & Technology, 49:7614-7622. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b00373

Benjamin M. Sleeter, Jinxun Liu, Colin Daniel, Leonardo Frid and Zhiliang Zhu, 2015. An integrated approach to modeling changes in land use, land cover, and disturbance and their impact on ecosystem carbon dynamics: a case study in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. AIMS Environmental Science 2(3): 577-606. doi:10.3934/environsci.2015.3.577

Zhao, F., Keane, R.E., Zhu, Z., and Huang, C. 2015. Comparing current and historical wildfire regimes in the Northern Rocky Mountains using a landscape succession model. Forest Ecology and Management, 343:9-21. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2015.01.020

Liang L, Hawbaker T, Chen YL, Zhu Z, Gong P. 2014. Characterizing recent and projecting future potential patterns of mountain pine beetle outbreaks in the Southern Rocky Mountains. Applied Geography. DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2014.09.012

Liang, L., Chen, Y., Hawbaker, T.J., Zhu, Z., Gong, P., 2014. Mapping Mountain Pine Beetle Mortality through Growth Trend Analysis of Time-Series Landsat Data. Remote Sensing 2014, 6, p. 5696-5716. DOI: 10.3390.

Zhu, Zhiliang; Reed, Bradley C. ed., Zhu, Z., Sleeter, B., Reker, R., Hawbaker, T., Stackpoole, S., Bergamaschi, B., Liu, S., 2014. Baseline and projected future carbon storage and greenhouse-gas fluxes in ecosystems of the eastern United States. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper: 1804, 214 p. (Also available at http://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/pp1804.)

Le Yu, Lu Liang, Jie Wang, Yuanyuan Zhao, Qu Cheng, Luanyun Hu, Shuang Liu, Liang Yu, Xiaoyi Wang, Peng Zhu, Xueyan Li, Yue Xu, Congcong Li, Wei Fu, Xuecao Li, Wenyu Li, Caixia Liu, Na Cong, Han Zhang, Fangdi Sun, Xinfang Bi, Qinchuan Xin, Dandan Li, Donghui Yan, Zhiliang Zhu, Michael F. Goodchild and Peng Gong, 2014. Meta-discoveries from a synthesis of satellite-based land-cover mapping research, International Journal of Remote Sensing, 35(13):4573-4588.

Yu Chang, Zhiliang Zhu, Rencang Bu, Hongwei Chen, Yuting Feng, Yuehui Li, Yuanman Hu, and Zhicheng Wang, 2013. Predicting fire occurrence patterns with logistic regression in Heilongjiang Province, China. Landscape Ecolology, DOI 10.1007/s10980-013-9935-4

Peng Gong, Jie Wang, Le Yu, Yongchao Zhao, Yuanyuan Zhao, Lu Liang, Zhenguo Niu, Xiaomeng Huang, Haohuan Fu, Shuang Liu, Congcong Li, Xueyan Li, Wei Fu, Caixia Liu, Yue Xu, Xiaoyi Wang, Qu Cheng, Luanyun Hu, Wenbo Yao, Han Zhang, Peng Zhu, Ziying Zhao, Haiying Zhang, Yaomin Zheng, Luyan Ji, Yawen Zhang, Han Chen, An Yan, Jianhong Guo, Liang Yu, Lei Wang, Xiaojun Liu, Tingting Shi, Menghua Zhu, Yanlei Chen, Guangwen Yang, Ping Tang, Bing Xu, Chandra Giri, Nicholas Clinton, Zhiliang Zhu, Jin Chen & Jun Chen, 2013. Finer resolution observation and monitoring of global land cover: first mapping results with Landsat TM and ETM+ data, International Journal of Remote Sensing, 34(7):2607-2654.

Zhu, Zhiliang, and Reed, B.C., eds., 2012, Baseline and projected future carbon storage and greenhouse-gas fluxes in ecosystems of the Western United States: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1797, 192 p. (Also available at http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1797/.)

Peter Warwick and Zhiliang Zhu, 2012. New insights into the Nation’s Carbon Storage Potential. Eos Transactions, American Geophysical Union, 93(26): 241-242. 

Zhu, Zhiliang, ed., Bouchard, Michelle, Butman, David, Hawbaker, Todd, Li, Zhengpeng, Liu, Jinxun, Liu, Shuguang, McDonald, Cory, Reker, Ryan, Sayler, Kristi, Sleeter, Benjamin, Sohl, Terry, Stackpoole, Sarah, Wein, Anne, and Zhu, Zhiliang, 2011, Baseline and projected future carbon storage and greenhouse-gas fluxes in the Great Plains region of the United States: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1787, 28 p. (Also available at http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1787/.)

Sohl, T.L., Sleeter, B.M., Zhu, Z., Sayler, K.L., Bennett, S., Bouchard, M., Reker, R., Hawbaker, T., Wein, A., Liu, S., Kanengieter, R., and Acevedo, W., 2012.  A land-use and land-cover modeling strategy to support a national assessment of carbon stocks and fluxes.  Applied Geography 34: 111-124.

Liu, J., Vogelmann, J.E., Zhu, Z., 2011. Estimating California ecosystem carbon change using process model and land cover disturbance data: 1951-2000. Ecological Modeling, 222:2333-2341.

Zhu, Zhiliang, and Stackpoole, Sarah, 2011, Assessing carbon stocks, carbon sequestration, and greenhouse-gas fluxes in ecosystems of the United States under present conditions and future scenarios: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2011-3007, 2 p. (Also available at http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2011/3007/.)

Li, A., Huang, C., Sun, G., Shi, H., Toney, C., Zhu, Z., Rollins, M.G., Goward, S.N. & Masek, J.G. (2011). Modeling the growth of young forests regenerating from recent disturbances in Mississippi using Landsat time series observations and ICESat data.

Zhu, Zhiliang, ed., Bergamaschi, Brian, Bernknopf, Richard, Clow, David, Dye, Dennis, Faulkner, Stephen, Forney, William, Gleason, Robert, Hawbaker, Todd, Liu, Jinxun, Liu, Shuguang, Prisley, Stephen, Reed, Bradley, Reeves, Matthew, Rollins, Matthew, Sleeter, Benjamin, Sohl, Terry, Stackpoole, Sarah, Stehman, Stephen, Striegl, Robert, Wein, Anne, and Zhu, Zhiliang, 2010, A method for assessing carbon stocks, carbon sequestration, and greenhouse-gas fluxes in ecosystems of the United States under present conditions and future scenarios: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5233, 188 p. (Also available at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2010/5233/.)

Giri, C., Ochieng, E., Tieszen, L.L., Zhu, Z., Singh, A., Loveland, T., Masek, J., and Duke, N., 2011. Status and distribution of mangrove forests of the world using earth observation satellite data. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 20(1):154-159.

Chen, X., Liu, S., Zhu, Z., Vogelmann, J., Li, Z., and Ohlen, D. 2010. Estimating aboveground forest biomass carbon and fire consumption in the U.S. Utah high plateaus using data from the Forest Inventory and Analysis program, Landsat, and LANDFIRE. Ecological Indicators, 11(140-148)

Huang, C., Goward, S. N., Masek, J. G., Thomas, N., Zhu, Z., & Vogelmann, J. E. (2010). An automated approach for reconstructing recent forest disturbance history using dense Landsat time series stacks. Remote Sensing of Environment, 114, 183−198.

Huang, C., Thomas, N., Goward, S.N., Masek, J., Zhu, Z., Townshend, J.R.G. & Vogelmann, J.E. (2010). Automated masking of cloud and cloud shadow for forest change analysis. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 31, 5449-5464.

Vogelmann, J.E., Tolk, B., and Zhu, Z. 2009. Monitoring forest changes in the southeastern United States using multitemporal Landsat data, Remote Sensing of Environment, 113(8):1739-1748.

Giri, C.P., Zhu, Z., Tieszen, L.L., Singh, A., Gillette, S., and Kelmelis, J.A., 2008, Mangrove forest distributions and dynamics (1975-2005) of the tsunami-affected region of Asia: Journal of Biogeography, v. 35, no. 3, p. 519-528

Hawbaker, T.J., Radeloff, V.C., Syphard, A.D., Zhu, Z., and Stewart, S.I., 2008. Detection rates of the MODIS active fire product in the United States, Remote Sensing of Environment, 112:2656-2664.

Weng, Y., Gong, P., and Zhu, Z., 2008. Reflectance spectroscopy for the assessment of soil salt content in soils of the Yellow River Delta of China. Int. Journal of Remote Sensing, 29:5511-5531.

Tan, Z., Tieszen, L.L., Zhu, Z., Liu, S., and Howard, S.M., 2007, an estimate of carbon esmissions from 2004 wildfires across Alaskan Rukon River Basin. Carbon Balance Management, 19:2-12.

Eidenshink, J., B. Schwind, K. Brewer, Z. Zhu, B. Quayle, and S. Howard. 2007. A project for monitoring trends in burn severity. Fire Ecology 3(1): 3-21. 

Keane, R. E., Rollins, M., and Zhu, Z. 2007. Using simulated historical time series to prioritize fuel treatments on landscape across the United States: the LANDFIRE prototype project. Ecological Modeling 204: 485-502. 

Zhu, Z., Key, C., Ohlen, D., and Benson, N., 2006. Evaluate sensitivities of burn-severity mapping algorithms for different ecosystems and fire histories in the United States – final report to the Joint Fire Science Program. 36 p. 

Zhu, Z., Vogelmann, J., Ohlen, D., Kost, J., Chen, S., Tolk, B., and Rollins, M., 2006. Mapping Existing Vegetation Composition and Structure. In: LANDFIRE Prototype Project: nationally consistent and locally relevant geospatial data for wildland fire management. M.G. Rollins, Tech. Editor, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Ft. Collins, CO, RMRS-GTR-175.

Shi, H., Singh, A., Kant, S., Zhu, Z., and Waller, E. 2005. Integrating habitat status, human population pressure, and protection status into biodiversity conservation priority setting. Conservation Biology 19 (4): 1273-1285. 

Giri, C., Zhu, Z., and Reed, B. 2004. A comparative analysis of the Global Land Cover 2000 and MODIS land cover data sets. Remote Sensing of Environment, 94(1):123-132. 

Latifovic, R., Zhu, Z., Cihlar, J., Giri, C., and Olthof, I., 2004. Land cover mapping of North and Central America –global land cover 2000, Remote Sensing of Environment 89(1):116-127.

Zhu, Z. and Waller, E. 2003. Global forest cover mapping for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Forest Resources Assessment 2000 Program. Forest Science, 49(3): 369-380. 

Zhu, Z., Huang, C., Vogelmann, J., Tolk, B., Menakis, J. and Moisen, G. 2003. A strategy for mapping mid-scale existing vegetation in support of national fire fuel assessment. In: Proceedings, Annual Convention of the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, May 2003, Anchorage, AK. CDROM. 

Singh, A., Shi, H., Zhu, Z., and Foresman, T. 2001. Environment Information and Assessment Technical Report: An assessment of the status of the world’s remaining closed forests. UNEP/DEWA, Nairobi, Kenya. 

Zhu, Z., Yang, L, Stehman, S.V., and Czaplewski, R.L. 2000. Accuracy assessment for the U.S. Geological Survey regional land cover mapping program: New York and New Jersey region. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 66(12): 1425-1435. 

Stehman, S.V., Zhu, Z., Czaplewski, R.L., Nusser, S.M., and Yang, L., 2000. Combining accuracy assessment of land-cover maps with environmental monitoring programs. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 64:115-126. 

Loveland, T.R., Reed, B.C., Brown, J.F., Ohlen, D.O., Zhu, Z., Yang, L., and Merchant, J.W., 2000. Development of a global land cover characteristics database and IGBP DISCover from 1 km AVHRR data, International Journal of Remote Sensing, 21:6-7, 1303-1330.

Loveland, T.R., Zhu, Z., Ohlen, D.O., Brown, J.F., Reed, B.C., and Yang, L., 1999. An analysis of the global land cover characterization process. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 65(9): 1021-1032. 

Zhu, Z., Yang, L., Stehman, S.V., and Czaplewski, R.L., 1999. Designing an accuracy assessment for USGS regional land cover mapping program. Chapter 46 of Spatial Accuracy Assessment: Land Information Uncertainty in Natural Resources, p. 393-398, Sleeping Bear Press/Ann Arbor Press, Chelsea, MI. 

Zhu, Z. 1998. Using the USGS global land cover database to support the FAO global forest survey. In: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial USDA Forest Service Remote Sensing Applications Conference. April 6-10, 1998. Nassau Bay, Texas. American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Bethesda, Maryland. p. 210-217. 

Zhu, Z., and Yang, L.M., 1996. Characteristics of the North America 1-km AVHRR data set. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 17(10): 1915-1924. 

Roesch, F.A., Jr., Van Deusen, P.C., and Zhu, Z., 1995. A comparison of various estimators for updating forest area coverage using AVHRR and forest inventory data. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 61(3):307-311. 

Zhu, Z., and Evans, D.L., 1994. U.S. forest type groups and predicted percent forest cover from AVHRR data. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 60(5):525-531. 

Zhu, Z., 1994. Forest density mapping in the lower 48 states: a regression procedure. Res. Pap. SO-280. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station, New Orleans, LA. 11 p.