, Volume 19, Issue 7, pp 1063-1075
Date: 06 Apr 2013

Effect of age and disturbance on decadal changes in carbon stocks in managed forest landscapes in central Canada

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Abstract

Forests have the potential to be a sink in the global carbon (C) budget and thus play an important role in mitigating climate change. However, large-scale management of forests to their sink potential requires understanding of factors responsible for changes in forest C stocks. In this paper, we quantify the effects of initial forest landscape condition and disturbance rates on landscape-level changes in forest C stocks using predictions for managed forests in Ontario, Canada. Ten-year changes in C stocks in public forests managed for wood fibre production were simulated under four scenarios reflecting the range of volume harvested between 1998 and 2007. Changes in forest C stocks varied across Ontario and with harvest rate, resulting in the forest ranging from being a source of 0.767 tC ha-1 year−1 to a sink of 0.656 tC ha−1 year−1. Simulation results were used to develop a predictive equation explaining over 93 % of the variation in forest C stocks. Variables included in the equation, in descending order of their effect on changes in forest C stocks, were relative harvest rate, forest growth rate, natural disturbance rate, and initial forest C stocks. A reduced equation, including only the first three variables, explained nearly 89 % of the variation in forest C stocks. The results indicate that short-term changes in C stocks depend on initial forest condition and that there are limits to how much these changes can be manipulated by altering harvest and disturbance rates.