Dynamics of detrital carbon pools following harvesting of a humid eastern
Canadian balsam fir boreal forest.
Fanny Senez-Gagnon, Évelyne Thiffault, David Paré, Alexis Achim, Yves Bergeron.
Forest management strongly influences the carbon (C) budget of boreal forests and their potential to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. A better quantification of the net changes of carbon pools with time since harvesting is necessary to guide the development of climate-friendly forest management practices. The objective of this study was to assess the evolution of forest C pools, with a special focus on detrital biomass, in an 80-year post-harvesting chronosequence consisting of 36 very homogenous stem-only harvested plots from a humid boreal balsam fir forest of eastern Canada. Dead wood C stocks comprised of snags, stumps, downed woody debris and buried wood averaged 37?Mg?C?ha?1 and evolved according to an upward-facing «boomerang» shape pattern throughout the chronosequence (rapid decrease in the first years followed by a constant increase until the end of the time horizon). In contrast, soil C stocks (FH and mineral) averaged 156?Mg?C?ha?1 and remain constant through time. Stand C sequestration increased rapidly in the early stages up to age 50 when it reached about 250?Mg?C?ha?1, and then continued to accumulate at a slower rate. The temporal trends observed in C pools suggest that C originating from aboveground dead wood (snags, stumps, downed woody debris) is either leaving the system (respired or leached) or transferred into buried wood, and does not appear to influence the C stocks of the fine fraction of the organic and mineral soil horizons. However, the ultimate fate of dead wood C is still poorly understood and further research is needed in this field. We recommend fixing the length of harvest rotation at a minimum of 50?years for this ecosystem to allow the build-up of its dead wood capital, and to promote dead wood retention on site. We also recommend including buried wood in carbon inventories as this pool represents an important share of the detrital C stock in these humid boreal forests.