Canadian Forest Service Publications

Stand carbon stocks and soil carbon and nitrogen storage for riparian and upland forests of boreal lakes in northeastern Ontario. 2005. Hazlett, P.W.; Gordon, A.M.; Sibley, P.K.; Buttle, J.M. Forest Ecology and Management 219: 56-68.

Year: 2005

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 28157

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Mark record


The establishment of shoreline reserves (buffer strips) has guided riparian forest management in Ontario for many years. A riparian area is defined as the transitional zone between the aquatic and terrestrial environments and therefore is also known as the aquatic/terrestrial ecotone. While many functions of riparian forests have been recognized and well studied, less is known about their potential to sequester C and whether this potential differs from other areas in the boreal forest landscape. Increased harvesting pressure due to decreased wood supply in Ontario and debate about the effectiveness of the current reserve guidelines has resulted in a renewed interest in harvesting riparian forests. In this study riparian and upslope forest C and soil C and N storage were quantified for 21 lakes shorelines at the Esker Lakes Research Area, a boreal forest ecosystem in northeastern Ontario, Canada. Objectives were to compare the C and N storage potential of riparian forests with those of adjacent upland forests, and to examine the potential impacts of harvesting on C stocks in riparian zones of the boreal forest.

Riparian forests did not differ from upslope stands in terms of total aboveground overstory C storage although there were significant differences in stocking density and species composition. However, a greater proportion of total site C in riparian areas was stored in the overstory tree layer (>5 cm dbh) compared to upslope areas. Forest floor layers were deeper and stored more C and N in riparian forest stands in comparison to upslope stands. In contrast, mineral soil in upslope stands had greater C and N storage than mineral soil horizons within the riparian forest. As a result, the riparian organic horizons comprise a larger percentage of the overall soil storage of C and N than upslope layers. Currently practiced full-tree harvesting would result in a removal of approximately 76% of total aboveground C (17% of the ecosystem C) in upslope stands compared to 98% of total aboveground C (35% of the ecosystem C) in riparian forests. Selective or modified harvesting in riparian zones could decrease C removal to levels equal to that obtained by full-tree harvesting in upslope areas.