Canadian Forest Service Publications

Carbon budget implications of the transition from natural to managed disturbance regimes in forest landscapes. 1998. Kurz, W.A.; Beukema, S.J.; Apps, M.J. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 2(4): 405-421.

Year: 1998

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 18778

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

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Land-use change from an unmanaged to a managed forested landscape in northern forests is associated with a reduction of the area annually affected by natural disturbances (wildfires and forest insects) and the introduction of harvesting as a new disturbance. This study examined the impacts of changes in the disturbance regime – the frequency and type of disturbance – on landscape-level carbon (C) content and fluxes. The Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector was used to assess these impacts in six representative landscapes (100 000 ha each) with a range of disturbance regimes that are characteristic of conditions in coastal British Columbia, the interior of British Columbia, and the eastern boreal forest in Canada. The model was used to simulate ecosystem C fluxes during a period of natural disturbances, a 50-year transition period during which harvesting replaced natural disturbances, followed by 150 years of harvesting. The initial landscape-level biomass C content under natural disturbance regimes in the six example landscapes was 22 to 75% of their potential maximum content which is often used as the reference or baseline case. After 200 years of forest management, the C stored in the landscape plus the C retained in forest products manufactured from harvested biomass was between 58 and 101% of the landscape C content prior to the onset of harvesting. Landscape-level ecosystem C content was found to be affected by changes in the disturbance frequency, the age-dependence of the disturbance probabilities, and the disturbance-specific impacts on ecosystem C content. The results indicate that using the potential maximum C content of a landscape as the baseline always overestimates the actual C release due to land use change. A more meaningful procedure would be to assess the actual differences in landscape-level C content between the natural and the managed disturbance regime.