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Carbon dynamics of North American boreal forest after stand replacing wildfire and clearcut logging

  • Special Feature: Review
  • Approaches for forest disturbances studies: natural variability and tree regeneration
  • Published:
Journal of Forest Research

Abstract

Boreal forest carbon (C) storage and sequestration is a critical element for global C management and is largely disturbance driven. The disturbance regime can be natural or anthropogenic with varying intensity and frequency that differ temporally and spatially the boreal forest. The objective of this review was to synthesize the literature on C dynamics of North American boreal forests after most common disturbances, stand replacing wildfire and clearcut logging. Forest ecosystem C is stored in four major pools: live biomass, dead biomass, organic soil horizons, and mineral soil. Carbon cycling among these pools is inter-related and largely determined by disturbance type and time since disturbance. Following a stand replacing disturbance, (1) live biomass increases rapidly leading to the maximal biomass stage, then stabilizes or slightly declines at old-growth or gap dynamics stage at which late-successional tree species dominate the stand; (2) dead woody material carbon generally follows a U-shaped pattern during succession; (3) forest floor carbon increases throughout stand development; and (4) mineral soil carbon appears to be more or less stable throughout stand development. Wildfire and harvesting differ in many ways, fire being more of a chemical and harvesting a mechanical disturbance. Fire consumes forest floor and small live vegetation and foliage, whereas logging removes large stems. Overall, the effects of the two disturbances on C dynamics in boreal forest are poorly understood. There is also a scarcity of literature dealing with C dynamics of plant coarse and fine roots, understory vegetation, small-sized and buried dead material, forest floor, and mineral soil.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for a critical review and constructive recommendations. The financial support for this study was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (283336 and STPGP 322297) and the Sustainable Forest Management Network Centre of Excellence of Canada. This study was also supported by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research (project SF0170014s08) and by Estonian Science Foundation Grant no. 8496.

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Seedre, M., Shrestha, B.M., Chen, H.Y.H. et al. Carbon dynamics of North American boreal forest after stand replacing wildfire and clearcut logging. J For Res 16, 168–183 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10310-011-0264-7

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