Large-scale variation in forest carbon turnover rate is related to climate

Spatial gradients in forest carbon turnover rate in boreal and temperate forests are explained by different climate-related processes (frost stress, drought stress, insect outbreaks) depending on the ecosystem. These findings will allow improving the prediction of land carbon cycle dynamics in response to climate change.

In a study published in Geophysical Research Letters (, which was led by Martin Thurner and Christian Beer from ACES, satellite-based products of carbon stocks and productivity covering the entire Northern Hemisphere boreal and temperate forests have been used. For the first time, the rate at which carbon is released from the forest vegetation pools, the so-called carbon turnover rate, could be studied based on observations at a broader scale. The carbon turnover rate is integrating over processes acting at different spatial and temporal scales, including litterfall, background mortality and disturbances, and is a characteristic ecosystem property escribing the dynamics of the system and governing the potential of forests to store CO2 assimilated from the atmosphere and thus to mitigate climate change. While the spatial variation in carbon turnover rate is found to be related to winter length and winter temperature in boreal forests, it is explained by climate conditions favouring drought stress and insect outbreaks in temperate forests. These results provide the basis for a detailed exploration of the underlying mortality mechanisms in field studies and finally for their consideration in Earth system models.



Bolin Centre for Climate Research
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