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Spatio-temporal changes in biomass carbon sinks in China’s forests from 1977 to 2008

Abstract

Forests play a leading role in regional and global carbon (C) cycles. Detailed assessment of the temporal and spatial changes in C sinks/sources of China’s forests is critical to the estimation of the national C budget and can help to constitute sustainable forest management policies for climate change. In this study, we explored the spatio-temporal changes in forest biomass C stocks in China between 1977 and 2008, using six periods of the national forest inventory data. According to the definition of the forest inventory, China’s forest was categorized into three groups: forest stand, economic forest, and bamboo forest. We estimated forest biomass C stocks for each inventory period by using continuous biomass expansion factor (BEF) method for forest stands, and the mean biomass density method for economic and bamboo forests. As a result, China’s forests have accumulated biomass C (i.e., biomass C sink) of 1896 Tg (1 Tg=1012 g) during the study period, with 1710, 108 and 78 Tg C in forest stands, and economic and bamboo forests, respectively. Annual forest biomass C sink was 70.2 Tg C a−1, offsetting 7.8% of the contemporary fossil CO2 emissions in the country. The results also showed that planted forests have functioned as a persistent C sink, sequestrating 818 Tg C and accounting for 47.8% of total C sink in forest stands, and that the old-, mid- and young-aged forests have sequestrated 930, 391 and 388 Tg C from 1977 to 2008. Our results suggest that China’s forests have a big potential as biomass C sink in the future because of its large area of planted forests with young-aged growth and low C density.

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Correspondence to JingYun Fang.

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Guo, Z., Hu, H., Li, P. et al. Spatio-temporal changes in biomass carbon sinks in China’s forests from 1977 to 2008. Sci. China Life Sci. 56, 661–671 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11427-013-4492-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11427-013-4492-2

Keywords

  • bamboo forests
  • biomass carbon stock
  • carbon sink
  • forest inventory
  • economic forests
  • natural forests
  • planted forests