Mature forests hold maximum live biomass stocks uri icon

abstract

  • The important role that forests play in the global carbon cycle has led to the implementation of management practices to enhance long-term carbon storage in forests. Obtaining information about how forest biomass varies at different successional stages is therefore essential. In this study, we aimed (i) to determine the relationship between stand live biomass and the degree of naturalness (i.e. the degree to which forests dynamics are driven by natural processes in the absence of anthropogenic influences) in undisturbed, mature forests, and (ii) to establish the upper threshold of live biomass stock that is dependent on site quality, by using the site form (SF) index (dominant height-diameter relationship). We assessed live biomass stocks in a total of 10 undisturbed mixed and pure mature silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) stands across the Spanish Pyrenees. We used dendrochronology and chrono-functional indicators to assess the degree of naturalness and to detect growth releases as proxies for past disturbance. We compared data from the mature plots and data from the Spanish National Forest Inventory (NFI), for similar forest types and SF values, to determine whether maximum live biomass values were reached in the plots. We observed that live biomass stock was generally independent of naturalness. The forests characterized by the lowest degrees of naturalness held similar amounts of live tree biomass as those characterized by the highest degrees of naturalness, including old-growth forests. Although some stands had undergone severe disturbance in the past, in all but two plots the live biomass stocks reached maximum values at the respective SF values, unlike in the NFI plots. The study findings contribute to the body of evidence supporting the existence of an upper threshold of live biomass stock represented by undisturbed mature stands. Maximum live carbon stock appears to be reached at earlier stages than the old-growth stage. This finding has consequences for biomass and carbon management and may be useful for developing forest policies involving carbon sequestration aimed at mitigating climate change.

publication date

  • 2021
  • 2021