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Journal: Carbon balance and management


Discussions about limiting anthropogenic emissions of CO[Formula: see text] often focus on transition to renewable energy sources and on carbon capture and storage (CCS) of CO[Formula: see text]. The potential contributions from forests, forest products and other low-tech strategies are less frequently discussed. Here we develop a new simulation model to assess the global carbon content in forests and apply the model to study active annual carbon harvest 100 years into the future.

Concepts: Renewable energy development, Carbon capture and storage, Sustainability, Fossil fuel, Peak oil, Wind power, Energy, Renewable energy


A recent article by Luyssaert et al. (Nature 562:259-262, 2018) analyses the climate impact of forest management in the European Union, considering both biogeochemical (i.e., greenhouse gases, GHG) and biophysical (e.g., albedo, transpiration, etc.) effects. Based on their findings, i.e. that additional net overall climate benefits from forest management would be modest, the authors conclude that the EU “should not rely on forest management to mitigate climate change”. We first explain that most of the additional EU GHG mitigation effort by 2030 is expected to come from emission reductions and only a very small part from forestry, even when forest bioenergy is allowed for. Nevertheless, the inclusion of forest management in climate change mitigation strategies is key to identifying the country-specific optimal mix, in terms of overall GHG balance, between strategies focused on conserving and/or enhancing the sink and strategies focused on using more wood to reduce emissions in other GHG sectors. Then, while acknowledging the importance that biophysical effects have on the climate, especially at the local and seasonal scale, we argue that the net annual biophysical climate impact of forest management in Europe remains more uncertain than the net CO2 impact. This has not been adequately emphasized by Luyssaert et al. (2018), leading to conclusions on the net overall climate impact of forest management that we consider premature and applied to a partially biased perception of European policy towards forestry and climate change. To avoid further confusion in the debate on how forestry may contribute to mitigating climate change, a more constructive dialogue between the scientific community and policy makers is needed.


We determine the potential of forests and the forest sector to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by changes in management practices and wood use for two regions within Canada’s managed forest from 2018 to 2050. Our modeling frameworks include the Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector, a framework for harvested wood products that estimates emissions based on product half-life decay times, and an account of marginal emission substitution benefits from the changes in use of wood products and bioenergy. Using a spatially explicit forest inventory with 16 ha pixels, we examine mitigation scenarios relating to forest management and wood use: increased harvesting efficiency; residue management for bioenergy; reduced harvest; reduced slashburning, and more longer-lived wood products. The primary reason for the spatially explicit approach at this coarse resolution was to estimate transportation distances associated with delivering harvest residues for heat and/or electricity production for local communities.


Land use and management activities have a substantial impact on carbon stocks and associated greenhouse gas emissions and removals. However, it is challenging to discriminate between anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic sources and sinks from land. To address this problem, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change developed a managed land proxy to determine which lands are contributing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and removals. Governments report all emissions and removals from managed land to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change based on this proxy, and policy interventions to reduce emissions from land use are expected to focus on managed lands. Our objective was to review the use of the managed land proxy, and summarize the criteria that governments have applied to classify land as managed and unmanaged. We found that the large majority of governments are not reporting on their application of the managed land proxy. Among the governments that do provide information, most have assigned all area in specific land uses as managed, while designating all remaining lands as unmanaged. This designation as managed land is intuitive for croplands and settlements, which would not exist without management interventions, but a portion of forest land, grassland, and wetlands may not be managed in a country. Consequently, Brazil, Canada and the United States have taken the concept further and delineated managed and unmanaged forest land, grassland and wetlands, using additional criteria such as functional use of the land and accessibility of the land to anthropogenic activity. The managed land proxy is imperfect because reported emissions from any area can include non-anthropogenic sources, such as natural disturbances. However, the managed land proxy does make reporting of GHG emissions and removals from land use more tractable and comparable by excluding fluxes from areas that are not directly influenced by anthropogenic activity. Moreover, application of the managed land proxy can be improved by incorporating additional criteria that allow for further discrimination between managed and unmanaged land.


Determining national carbon stocks is essential in the framework of ongoing climate change mitigation actions. Presently, assessment of carbon stocks in the context of greenhouse gas (GHG)-reporting on a nation-by-nation basis focuses on the terrestrial realm, i.e., carbon held in living plant biomass and soils, and on potential changes in these stocks in response to anthropogenic activities. However, while the ocean and underlying sediments store substantial quantities of carbon, this pool is presently not considered in the context of national inventories. The ongoing disturbances to both terrestrial and marine ecosystems as a consequence of food production, pollution, climate change and other factors, as well as alteration of linkages and C-exchange between continental and oceanic realms, highlight the need for a better understanding of the quantity and vulnerability of carbon stocks in both systems. We present a preliminary comparison of the stocks of organic carbon held in continental margin sediments within the Exclusive Economic Zone of maritime nations with those in their soils. Our study focuses on Namibia, where there is a wealth of marine sediment data, and draws comparisons with sediment data from two other countries with different characteristics, which are Pakistan and the United Kingdom.

Concepts: Erosion, Abyssal plain, Oceanography, United Kingdom, Global warming, Climate, Sediment, Climate change


Tropical forests provide a crucial carbon sink for a sizable portion of annual global CO2 emissions. Policies that incentivize tropical forest conservation by monetizing forest carbon ultimately depend on accurate estimates of national carbon stocks, which are often based on field inventory sampling. As an exercise to understand the limitations of field inventory sampling, we tested whether two common field-plot sampling approaches could accurately estimate carbon stocks across approximately 76 million ha of Perúvian forests. A 1-ha resolution LiDAR-based map of carbon stocks was used as a model of the country’s carbon geography.

Concepts: Rainforest, Emission standard, Balance sheet, Global warming, Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, Tropical rainforest, Carbon dioxide, Forest


Understanding and quantifying carbon © exchanges between the biosphere and the atmosphere-specifically the process of C removal from the atmosphere, and how this process is changing-is the basis for developing appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change. Monitoring forest systems and reporting on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals are now required components of international efforts aimed at mitigating rising atmospheric GHG. Spatially-explicit information about forests can improve the estimates of GHG emissions and removals. However, at present, remotely-sensed information on forest change is not commonly integrated into GHG reporting systems. New, detailed (30-m spatial resolution) forest change products derived from satellite time series informing on location, magnitude, and type of change, at an annual time step, have recently become available. Here we estimate the forest GHG balance using these new Landsat-based change data, a spatial forest inventory, and develop yield curves as inputs to the Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector (CBM-CFS3) to estimate GHG emissions and removals at a 30 m resolution for a 13 Mha pilot area in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Concepts: Time, Attribution of recent climate change, Steppe, Climate, Carbon dioxide, Atmosphere, Greenhouse gas, Climate change


The quantification and spatially explicit mapping of carbon stocks in terrestrial ecosystems is important to better understand the global carbon cycle and to monitor and report change processes, especially in the context of international policy mechanisms such as REDD+ or the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Especially in heterogeneous ecosystems, such as Savannas, accurate carbon quantifications are still lacking, where highly variable vegetation densities occur and a strong seasonality hinders consistent data acquisition. In order to account for these challenges we analyzed the potential of land surface phenological metrics derived from gap-filled 8-day Landsat time series for carbon mapping. We selected three areas located in different subregions in the central Brazil region, which is a prominent example of a Savanna with significant carbon stocks that has been undergoing extensive land cover conversions. Here phenological metrics from the season 2014/2015 were combined with aboveground carbon field samples of cerrado sensu stricto vegetation using Random Forest regression models to map the regional carbon distribution and to analyze the relation between phenological metrics and aboveground carbon.


Net carbon sinks capable of avoiding dangerous perturbation of the climate system and preventing ocean acidification have been identified, but they are likely to be limited by resource constraints (Nature 463:747-756, 2010). Land scarcity already creates tension between food security and bioenergy production, and this competition is likely to intensify as populations and the effects of climate change expand. Despite research into microalgae as a next-generation energy source, the land-sparing consequences of alternative sources of livestock feed have been overlooked. Here we use the FeliX model to quantify emissions pathways when microalgae is used as a feedstock to free up to 2 billion hectares of land currently used for pasture and feed crops. Forest plantations established on these areas can conceivably meet 50 % of global primary energy demand, resulting in emissions mitigation from the energy and LULUC sectors of up to 544 [Formula: see text] 107 PgC by 2100. Further emissions reductions from carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology can reduce global atmospheric carbon concentrations close to preindustrial levels by the end of the present century. Though previously thought unattainable, carbon sinks and climate change mitigation of this magnitude are well within the bounds of technological feasibility.

Concepts: Energy development, Sun, Agriculture, Carbon capture and storage, Weather, Climate, Climate change, Ocean


Satellite-based aboveground forest biomass maps commonly form the basis of forest biomass and carbon stock mapping and monitoring, but biomass maps likely vary in performance by region and as a function of spatial scale of aggregation. Assessing such variability is not possible with spatially-sparse vegetation plot networks. In the current study, our objective was to determine whether high-resolution lidar-based and moderate-resolution Landsat-base aboveground live forest biomass maps converged on similar predictions at stand- to landscape-levels (10 s to 100 s ha) and whether such differences depended on biophysical setting. Specifically, we examined deviations between lidar- and Landsat-based biomass mapping methods across scales and ecoregions using a measure of error (normalized root mean square deviation), a measure of the unsystematic deviations, or noise (Pearson correlation coefficient), and two measures related to systematic deviations, or biases (intercept and slope of a regression between the two sets of predictions).