Landscape Ecology

, Volume 30, Issue 8, pp 1473–1482 | Cite as

Effects of historical and current disturbance on forest biomass in Minnesota

  • Brice B. HanberryEmail author
  • Hong S. He
Research Article



Historical carbon storage prior to widespread forest clearing is uncertain. We examined aboveground biomass in historical (1847–1908) and current (2004–2008) mixed and broadleaf forests of Minnesota.


Our objective was to compare aboveground forest biomass density and total aboveground carbon storage for two forest types with different historical and current disturbance regimes.


We used densities and diameter distributions from historical and current tree surveys and applied relationships between diameter and biomass to estimate biomass in historical and current forests for larger trees with diameters ≥12.7 cm.


In the 8.5 million ha Northern Mixed Forest ecological division of Minnesota, historical forests ecosystems under a stand-replacing fire regime that produced high density forests contained greater aboveground biomass density (98 Mg/ha) than current forests (53 Mg/ha) disturbed by frequent tree cutting. Historical total carbon storage was 333 TgC and current carbon storage was 158 TgC; estimates depended on diameter distribution and historical forested extent. In the 4.5 million ha Eastern Broadleaf Forest division, historical forests under a frequent surface fire regime that produced low density oak savannas contained less biomass density (54 Mg/ha) than current dense eastern broadleaf forests (93 Mg/ha). Historical total carbon storage was 79 TgC and current carbon storage was 31 TgC, depending on diameter distribution and forested extent.


Total carbon storage appears to be unrealized due to potential for tree diameter increases in both divisions, stem density increases in the Northern Mixed Forest, and forested extent increases in the Eastern Broadleaf Forest.


Carbon Densification Fire Harvest Land use Management 



We thank the anonymous reviewers for their help to improve the manuscript. This project was funded by the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station and Eastern Region. Additional funds were provided by the Department of Interior USGS Northeast Climate Science Center. The contents of this paper are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States Government.

Supplementary material

10980_2015_201_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ForestryUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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