Springer

Overestimated Biomass Carbon Pools of the Northern mid- and High Latitude Forests

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Abstract

The biomass carbon (C) stock of forests is one of key parameters for the study of regional and global carbon cycles. Literature reviews shows that inventory-based forest C stocks documented for major countries in the middle and high northern latitudes fall within a narrow range of 36–56 Mg C ha−1 with an overall area-weighted mean of 43.6 Mg C ha−1. These estimates are 0.40 to 0.71 times smaller than those (61–108 Mg C ha−1) used in previous analysis of balancing the global carbon budget. A statistical analysis, using the global forest biomass database, implies that aboveground biomass per hectare is proportional to forest mean height [biomass in Mg/ha = 10.63 (height in m)] in closed-canopy forests in the study regions, indicating that forest height can be a proxy of regional biomass C stocks. The narrow range of C stocks is likely a result of similar forest height across the northern regions. The lower biomass C stock obtained in this study strongly suggests that the role of the northern forests in the global carbon cycle needs to be re-evaluated. Our findings also suggest that regional estimates of biomass could be readily made from the use of satellite methods such as lidar that can measure forest canopy height over large regions.

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