, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp 513–524 | Cite as

Carbon Dioxide Exchange Between an Old-growth Forest and the Atmosphere

  • Kyaw Tha Paw UEmail author
  • Matthias Falk
  • Thomas H. Suchanek
  • Susan L. Ustin
  • Jiquan Chen
  • Young-San Park
  • William E. Winner
  • Sean C. Thomas
  • Theodore C. Hsiao
  • Roger H. Shaw
  • Thomas S. King
  • R. David Pyles
  • Matt Schroeder
  • Anthony A. Matista


Eddy-covariance and biometeorological methods show significant net annual carbon uptake in an old-growth Douglas-fir forest in southwestern Washington, USA. These results contrast with previous assumptions that old-growth forest ecosystems are in carbon equilibrium. The basis for differences between conventional biomass-based carbon sequestration estimates and the biometeorologic estimates are discussed. Annual net ecosystem exchange was comparable to younger ecosystems at the same latitude, as quantified in the AmeriFlux program. Net ecosystem carbon uptake was significantly correlated with photosynthetically active radiation and air temperature, as well as soil moisture and precipitation. Optimum ecosystem photosynthesis occurred at relatively cool temperatures (5°–10°C). Understory and soil carbon exchange always represented a source of carbon to the atmosphere, with a strong seasonal cycle in source strength. Understory and soil carbon exchange showed a Q10 temperature dependence and represented a substantial portion of the ecosystem carbon budget. The period of main carbon uptake and the period of soil and ecosystem respiration are out of phase, however, and driven by different climatic boundary conditions. The period of strongest ecosystem carbon uptake coincides with the lowest observed values of soil and ecosystem respiration. Despite the substantial contribution of soil, the overall strength of the photosynthetic sink resulted in the net annual uptake. The net uptake estimates here included two correction methods, one for advection and the other for low levels of turbulence.


net ecosystem exchange (NEE) gross ecosystem production eddy covariance biometeorology old-growth forest carbon flux carbon dioxide Wind River Canopy Crane 



We thank Trevor Newton, Matt Schroeder, Jessica Wade-Murphy, Shane Motley, Sonia Wharton, Liyi Xu, and Drs. Dave Shaw, Xinli Wang, Bryan Weare, Richard Grotjahn, and Jerry Franklin for their help in carrying out this research, and Drs. Michael Unsworth, David Turner, Michael Ryan, Mark Harmon, and Chris Field for their comments regarding early drafts of this report. This research was supported by the Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research Program (BER), US Department of Energy (DOE), through the Western Regional Center (WESTGEC) of the National Institute for Global Environmental Change (NIGEC) under Cooperative Agreement DE-FC03-90 ER61010. J. Wade-Murphy was supported by the US Department of Energy Global Change Education Program. The Wind River Canopy Crane Research Facility is operated under joint sponsorship of the University of Washington and the USDA Forest Service/Pacific Northwest Station, and we acknowledge both for significant support. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the DOE.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kyaw Tha Paw U
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthias Falk
    • 1
  • Thomas H. Suchanek
    • 2
  • Susan L. Ustin
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jiquan Chen
    • 4
  • Young-San Park
    • 1
  • William E. Winner
    • 5
  • Sean C. Thomas
    • 6
  • Theodore C. Hsiao
    • 1
  • Roger H. Shaw
    • 1
  • Thomas S. King
    • 1
    • 7
  • R. David Pyles
    • 1
  • Matt Schroeder
    • 1
  • Anthony A. Matista
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Land, Air and Water ResourcesUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Contaminants–W-2605US Fish and Wildlife ServiceSacramentoUSA
  3. 3.Western Regional Center: National Institute for Global Environmental ChangeUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  4. 4.School of Landscape Ecology and Ecosystem Science (LEES), Earth, Ecological and Environmental Sciences (EEES), Bowman-Oddy LaboratoriesUniversity of ToledoToledoUSA
  5. 5.Department of Botany and Plant PathologyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  6. 6.Faculty of ForestryUniversity of TorontoOntarioCanada
  7. 7.College of Forest ResourcesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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