Disturbance suppresses the aboveground carbon sink in North American boreal forests
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Jonathan A. Wang; Alessandro Baccini; Mary Farina; James T. Randerson; Mark A. Friedl
Publication Year: 2021

Cataloging Information

  • ABoVE - Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment
  • aboveground biomass
  • biogeochemistry
  • carbon sink
  • climate change
  • environmental sciences
  • recovery
  • remote sensing
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: October 6, 2021
FRAMES Record Number: 64464


Climate change is altering vegetation and disturbance dynamics in boreal ecosystems. However, the aggregate impact of these changes on boreal carbon budgets is not well understood. Here we combined multiple satellite datasets to estimate annual stocks and changes in aboveground biomass (AGB) across boreal northwestern North America. From 1984 to 2014, the 2.82 × 106 km2 study region gained 434 ± 176 Tg of AGB. Fires resulted in losses of 789 ± 48 Tg, which were mostly compensated by post-fire recovery of 642 ± 86 Tg. Timber harvests contributed to losses of 74 ± 5 Tg, which were partly offset by post-harvest recovery of 32 ± 9 Tg. Earth system models overestimated AGB accumulation by a factor of 3 (+1,519 ± 171 Tg), which suggests that these models overestimate the terrestrial carbon sink in boreal ecosystems and highlights the need to improve representation of fire and other disturbance processes in these models.

Online Link(s):
Wang, Jonathan A.; Baccini, Alessandro; Farina, Mary; Randerson, James T.; Friedl, Mark A. 2021. Disturbance suppresses the aboveground carbon sink in North American boreal forests. Nature Climate Change 11(5):435-441.