Canadian Forest Service Publications
Variation in total and volatile carbon concentration among the major tree species of the boreal forest. Gao, B.; Taylor, A.R.; Chen, H.Y.H.; Wang, J. 2016. Forest Ecology and Management 375: 191–199.
Issued by: Atlantic Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 39127
Availability: PDF (download)
Available from the Journal's Web site. †
† This site may require a fee
Understanding variation in carbon (C) concentration of live trees is essential for quantifying forest C stocks and validating forest C accounting models. Previous studies in boreal forests have assumed 50% C concentration or focused on species-specific C concentration estimation based on samples taken mostly from stemwood tissue of large trees. Yet, little is known about differences in C concentration between woody tissues or among trees of different sizes nor about the effects of life-history traits, such as shade tolerance and the role of volatile C on total C concentration in live trees. In this study, we examined variation in total and volatile C concentration in bark and stemwood tissues for trees of different sizes for six major North American boreal tree species. We found that bark had significantly higher total C and volatile C concentrations than stemwood and that both total C and volatile C concentration significantly varied among tree species. The average total C concentrations were 56.2% in the bark and 50.5% in the stemwood, and the average volatile C concentration were 5.8% and 3.0% for bark and stemwood, respectively. Furthermore, total C and volatile C concentration in stemwood and bark of almost all shade-intolerant species increased with tree size, whereas those of shade-tolerant species showed negative or neutral size-associated change. Our results show that volatile C concentration is a key driver of variation in total C concentration and highlights the importance of considering variation in C concentration when quantifying forest C stocks, which has important consequences for predicting future global C emissions scenarios.
Plain Language Summary
Understanding how much carbon (C) is contained in trees is essential for calculating how much C forests store and what role forests play in climate change. It is commonly assumed that trees are made up of 50% C, however, some studies of tropical and temperate tree species suggest that C concentration varies substantially within trees (among different tree tissues, e.g., bark or stemwood) and between different tree species. Although the boreal forest is one of the largest forest types in the world, little is known about how C concentration varies within and between boreal tree species. In this study, we examined variation in C concentration in bark and stemwood tissues for six major North American boreal tree species. We found that bark contained significantly higher C than stemwood and that C varied significantly among tree species. Our results reveal that assuming 50% C concentration without considering tree species or tissue type may substantially underestimate C stocks for major boreal tree species, which has important consequences for predicting future global C emissions scenarios.