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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Landscape-variability of the carbon balance across managed boreal forests

Peichl, Matthias; Martinez-Garcia, Eduardo; Fransson, Johan E. S.; Wallerman, Jorgen; Laudon, Hjalmar; Lundmark, Tomas; Nilsson, Mats B.


Boreal forests are important global carbon (C) sinks and, therefore, considered as a key element in climate change mitigation policies. However, their actual C sink strength is uncertain and under debate, particularly for the actively managed forests in the boreal regions of Fennoscandia. In this study, we use an extensive set of biometric- and chamber-based C flux data collected in 50 forest stands (ranging from 5 to 211 years) over 3 years (2016-2018) with the aim to explore the variations of the annual net ecosystem production (NEP; i.e., the ecosystem C balance) across a 68 km(2) managed boreal forest landscape in northern Sweden. Our results demonstrate that net primary production rather than heterotrophic respiration regulated the spatio-temporal variations of NEP across the heterogeneous mosaic of the managed boreal forest landscape. We further find divergent successional patterns of NEP in our managed forests relative to naturally regenerating boreal forests, including (i) a fast recovery of the C sink function within the first decade after harvest due to the rapid establishment of a productive understory layer and (ii) a sustained C sink in old stands (131-211 years). We estimate that the rotation period for optimum C sequestration extends to 138 years, which over multiple rotations results in a long-term C sequestration rate of 86.5 t C ha(-1) per rotation. Our study highlights the potential of forest management to maximize C sequestration of boreal forest landscapes and associate climate change mitigation effects by developing strategies that optimize tree biomass production rather than heterotrophic soil C emissions.


boreal forest landscape; carbon sequestration; climate change mitigation; forest management; heterotrophic respiration; net primary production; rotation-forestry

Published in

Global Change Biology
2023, Volume: 29, number: 4, pages: 1119-1132
Publisher: WILEY