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Estimating Changes in the Carbon Content of Terrestrial Ecosystems from Historical Data

  • Richard A. Houghton

Abstract

When forests are cleared for agricultural crops, the carbon stored originally in trees is oxidized and released to the atmosphere, either rapidly if the trees are burned or slowly if they are left on the ground to decay. Similarly, the organic matter of soil is reduced through cultivation. Such reductions in the carbon stocks of terrestrial systems occur with the harvest of forests for wood and with the clearing of forests for cropland, pasture, or other uses. On the other hand, the regrowth of forests following harvest, the abandonment of agriculture, or the establishment of plantations increases the storage of carbon on land, both in vegetation and in soils. The balance between the clearing and regrowth of forests is the major factor in determining changes in the net storage of carbon in terrestrial systems. Non-forested systems can also lose or accumulate carbon, such as when grasslands are converted to agriculture; however, the changes in carbon per unit area are much smaller than for forests.

Keywords

Tropical Forest Agricultural Area Carbon Stock Secondary Forest Tree Ring 
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.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. Houghton

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