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Research article2014Peer reviewed

The Full Annual Carbon Balance of Boreal Forests Is Highly Sensitive to Precipitation

Oquist, M. G.; Nilsson, M. B.; Bishop, K.; Grelle, A.; Klemedtsson, L.; Kohler, S. J.; Laudon, H.; Lindroth, A.; Lofvenius, M. Ottosson; Wallin, M. B.


The boreal forest carbon balance is predicted to be particularly sensitive to climate change. Carbon balance estimates of these biomes stem mainly from eddy-covariance measurements of net ecosystem exchange (NEE). However, a full net ecosystem carbon balance (NECB) must include the lateral carbon export (LCE) through discharge. We show that annual LCE at a boreal forest site ranged from 4 to 28%, averaging 11% (standard deviation of 8%), of annual NEE over 13 years. Annual LCE and NEE are strongly anticorrelated; years with weak NEE coincide with high LCE. The decreased NEE in response to increased precipitation is caused by a reduction in the amount of incoming radiation caused by clouds. If our finding is also valid for other sites, it implies that increased precipitation at high latitudes may shift forest NECB in large areas of the boreal biome. Our results call for future analysis of this dual effect of precipitation on NEE and LCE.

Published in

Environmental Science and Technology Letters
2014, Volume: 1, number: 7, pages: 315-319