Climatic Change

, Volume 61, Issue 1–2, pp 89–99 | Cite as

Increased Carbon Sink in Temperate and Boreal Forests

  • Jari Liski
  • Alexander V. Korotkov
  • Christopher F. L. Prins
  • Timo Karjalainen
  • David G. Victor
  • Pekka E. Kauppi


An intense search is under way to identify the `missing sink' in the world carbon budget of perhaps 2 Pg year−1 (petagrams, or billiontonnes) of carbon, but its location and mechanism have proved elusive. Here we use a new forest inventory data set to estimate the carbon sink and the carbon pool of woody biomass in 55 countries that account for nearly all temperate or boreal forests and approximately half the world's total forest area. In each country there was a net accumulation of biomass; together, the carbon sink of woody biomass was 0.88 Pg year−1 during the 1990swith estimated uncertainty from 0.71 to 1.1 Pg year−1. Thisestimate, already about half of the missing sink, would probably be even larger if carbon accumulation in soil and detritus were also accounted for, but we are unable to quantify that additional sink. The sink is twice that estimated for the woody biomass of these forests a decade ago due to higher estimates for tree growth throughout the region and decreased timber harvests in Russia. In contrast, the new data indicate a carbon pool that is smaller than earlier estimates because of improved data for Russia and Australia.


Biomass Timber Detritus Tree Growth Boreal Forest 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alexeyev, V., Birdsey, R., Stakanov, V., and Korotkov, I.: 1995, 'Carbon in Vegetation of Russian Forests: Methods to Estimate Storage and Geographical Distribution', Water, Air and Soil Pollut 82, 271–282.Google Scholar
  2. Botkin, D. B. and Simpson, L. G.: 1990, 'Biomass of the North American Boreal Forest', Biogeochemistry 9, 161–174.Google Scholar
  3. Bousquet, P., Ciais, P., Peylin, P., Ramonet, M., and Monfray, P.: 1999, 'Inverse Modeling of Annual Atmospheric CO2 Sources and Sinks: 1. Method and Control Inversion', J. Geophys. Res. 104, 26161–26178.Google Scholar
  4. Dixon, R. K., Brown, S., Houghton, R. A., Solomon, A. M., Trexler, M. C., and Wisnievski, J.: 1994, 'Carbon Pools and Flux of Global Forest Ecosystems', Science 263, 185–190.Google Scholar
  5. EC: 1997, Study on European Forestry Information and Communication System, Reports on Forest Inventory and Survey Systems, European Commission, Luxembourg, 1328 pp.Google Scholar
  6. Fan, S., Gloor, M., Mahlman, J., Pacala, S., Sarmiento, J., Takahashi, T., and Tans, P.: 1998, 'A Large Terrestrial Carbon Sink in North America Implied by Atmospheric and Oceanic Carbon Dioxide Data and Models', Science 282, 442–446.Google Scholar
  7. Goodale, C. L., Apps, M. J., Birdsey, R. A., Field, C. B., Heath, L. S., Houghton, R. A., Jenkins, J. C., Kohlmaier, G. H., Kurz, W. A., Liu, S., Nabuurs, G.-J., Nilsson, S., and Shvidenko, A.: 2002, 'Forest Carbon Sinks in the Northern Hemisphere', Ecol. Appl. 12, 891–899.Google Scholar
  8. Hakkila, P.: 1989, Utilization of Residual Forest Biomass, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 568 pp.Google Scholar
  9. Keeling, R. F., Piper, S. C., and Heimann, M.: 1996, 'Global and Hemispheric CO2 Sinks Deduced from Changes in Atmospheric O2 Concentration', Nature 381, 218–221.Google Scholar
  10. Kurz, W. A. and Apps, M. J.: 1999, 'A 70-Year Retrospective Analysis of Carbon Fluxes in the Canadian Forest Sector', Ecol. Appl. 9, 526–547.Google Scholar
  11. Kuusela, K.: 1994, Forest Resources in Europe 1950-1990, European Forest Institute Research Report 1, Cambridge University Press, New York, 154 pp.Google Scholar
  12. Liski, J., Perruchoud, D., and Karjalainen, T.: 2002, 'Increasing Carbon Stocks in the Forest Soils of Western Europe', Forest Ecology and Management 169, 163–179.Google Scholar
  13. Lowe, J. J., Power, K., and Gray, S. L.: 1994, Canada's Forest Inventory 1991, Canadian Forest Service, Information Report PI-X-115, 67 pp.Google Scholar
  14. Lowe, J. J., Power, K., and Gray, S. L.: 1996, Canada's Forest Inventory 1991: The 1994 Version, Canadian Forest Service, Information Report BC-X-362, 23 pp.Google Scholar
  15. Myneni, R. B., Dong, J., Tucker, C. J., Kaufmann, R. K., Kauppi, P. E., Liski, J., Zhou, L., Alexeyev, V., and Hughes, M. K.: 2001, 'A Large Carbon Sink in theWoody Biomass of Northern Forests', Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 98, 14784–14789.Google Scholar
  16. Nadelhoffer, K. J., Emmett, B. A., Gundersen, P., Kjonaas, O. J., Koopmans, C. J., Schleppi, P., Tietema, A., and Wright, R. F.: 1999, 'Nitrogen Deposition Makes a Minor Contribution to Carbon Sequestration in Temperate Gorests', Nature 398, 145–149.Google Scholar
  17. Nilsson, S., Shvidenko, A., Stolbovoi, V., Gluck, M., Jonas, M., and Obersteiner, M.: 2000, Full Carbon Account for Russia, Interim report IR-00-016, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria, 180 pp.Google Scholar
  18. Perruchoud, D., Kienast, F., Kaufmann, E., and Bräker, O. U.: 1999, '20th Century Carbon Budget of Forest Soils in the Alps', Ecosystems 2, 320–337.Google Scholar
  19. Pisarenko, A. I., Strakhov, V. V., Päivinen, R., Kuusela, K., Dyakun, F. A., and Sdobnova, V. V.: 2000, Development of Forest Resources in the European Part of the Russian Federation, European Forest Institute Research Report 11, Brill, Leiden, Boston, KÖln, 102 pp.Google Scholar
  20. Powell, D. S., Faulkner, J. L., Darr, D. R., Zhu, Z., and MacCleery, D. W.: 1994, Forest Resources of the United States, 1992, USDA Forest Service, General Technical Report RM-234, 25 pp.Google Scholar
  21. Prentice, I. C. et al.: 2001, 'The Carbon Cycle and Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide', in Houghton, J. T. et al. (eds.), Climate Change 2001: The scientific Basis, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. pp. 183–237.Google Scholar
  22. Rayner, P. J., Enting, I. G., Francey, R. J., and Langenfelds, R.: 1999, 'Reconstructing the Recent Carbon Cycle from Atmospheric CO2, 13C and O2/N2 Observations', Tellus 51B, 213–232.Google Scholar
  23. Schimel, D. S., Melillo, J., Tian, H., McGuire, A. D., Kicklighter, D., Kittel, T., Rosenbloom, N., Running, S., Thornton, P., Ojima, D., Parton, W., Kelly, R., Sykes, M., Neilson, R., and Rizzo, B.: 2000, 'Contribution of Increasing CO2 and Climate to Carbon Storage by Ecocsystems in the United States', Science 287, 2004–2006.Google Scholar
  24. Sedjo, R. A.: 1992, 'Temperate Forest Ecosystems in the Global Carbon Cycle', Ambio 21, 274–277.Google Scholar
  25. Shvidenko, A. and Nilsson, S.: 1997, 'Are the Russian Forests Disappearing?', Unasylva 188, 57–64.Google Scholar
  26. Shvidenko, A. and Nilsson, S.: 1998a, 'Dynamics of Forest Resources of the Former Soviet Union with Respect to the Carbon Budget', in Kohlmeier, G. H., Weber, M., and Houghton, R. A. (eds.), Carbon Mitigation Potentials of Forestry and Wood Industry, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp. 43–62.Google Scholar
  27. Shvidenko, A. and Nilsson, S.: 1998b, 'Is Sustainable Development of the Russian Forest Sector Possible?', IUFRO Occasional Paper 11, 1–76.Google Scholar
  28. Spiecker, H., Mielikäinen, K., KÖhl, M., and Skovsgaard, J.: 1996, Growth Trends in European Forests, European Forest Institute Research Report 5, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 372 pp.Google Scholar
  29. Tans, P. P., Fung, I. Y., and Takahashi, T.: 1990, 'Observational Constraints on the Global Atmospheric CO2 Budget', Science 247, 1431–1438.Google Scholar
  30. Turner, D. P., Koerper, G. J., Harmon, M. E., and Lee, J. J.: 1995, 'A Carbon Budget for Forests of the Conterminous United States', Ecol. Appl. 5, 421–236.Google Scholar
  31. UN-ECE/FAO: 1985, The Forest Resources of the ECE Region (Europe, the U.S.S.R., North America, United Nations, Geneva, 223 pp.Google Scholar
  32. UN-ECE/FAO: 1992, The Forest Resources of the Temperate Zones, The UN-ECE/FAO 1990 Forest Resource Assessment, Volume I, General Forest Resource Information, United Nations, New York, 348 pp.Google Scholar
  33. UN-ECE/FAO: 2000, Forest Resources of Europe, CIS, North America, Australia, Japan and New Zealand (Industrialized Temperate/Boreal Countries), Contribution to the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000, United Nations, New York, 445 pp.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jari Liski
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alexander V. Korotkov
    • 3
  • Christopher F. L. Prins
    • 3
  • Timo Karjalainen
    • 4
  • David G. Victor
    • 5
  • Pekka E. Kauppi
    • 6
  1. 1.European Forest InstituteJoensuuFinland
  2. 2.Department of Forest EcologyUniversity of HelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Timber SectionUN/ECE Trade Division, Palais des NationsGeneva 10Switzerland
  4. 4.Joensuu Research CentreFinnish Forest Research InstituteJoensuuFinland
  5. 5.Program on Energy and Sustainable DevelopmentStanford UniversityStanfordU.S.A
  6. 6.Department of Limnology and Environmental ProtectionUniversity of HelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations