Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, Volume 290

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Elsevier BV
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Aboveground tree growth is a minor and decoupled fraction of boreal forest carbon input
Christoforos Pappas | Jason Maillet | Sharon Rakowski | Jennifer L. Baltzer | Alan G. Barr | T. Andrew Black | Simone Fatichi | Colin P. Laroque | Ashley M. Matheny | Alexandre Roy | Oliver Sonnentag | Tianshan Zha

• We reconstructed time series of boreal tree growth with a biometric approach. • Aboveground tree growth was a minor and decoupled fraction of carbon input. • Partitioned estimates of tree carbon sink are valuable observational constraints. • Such observational constraints can be used for model validation and policy making. The boreal biome accounts for approximately one third of the terrestrial carbon (C) sink. However, estimates of its individual C pools remain uncertain. Here, focusing on the southern boreal forest, we quantified the magnitude and temporal dynamics of C allocation to aboveground tree growth at a mature black spruce ( Picea mariana )-dominated forest stand in Saskatchewan, Canada. We reconstructed aboveground tree biomass increments (AGBi) using a biometric approach, i.e., species-specific allometry combined with forest stand characteristics and tree ring widths collected with a C-oriented sampling design. We explored the links between boreal tree growth and ecosystem C input by comparing AGBi with eddy-covariance-derived ecosystem C fluxes from 1999 to 2015 and we synthesized our findings with a refined meta-analysis of published values of boreal forest C use efficiency (CUE). Mean AGBi at the study site was decoupled from ecosystem C input and equal to 71 ± 7 g C m –2 (1999–2015), which is only a minor fraction of gross ecosystem production (GEP; i.e., AGBi / GEP ≈ 9 %). Moreover, C allocation to AGBi remained stable over time (AGBi / GEP; –0.0001 yr –1 ; p -value=0.775), contrary to significant trends in GEP (+5.72 g C m –2 yr –2 ; p -value=0.02) and CUE (–0.0041 yr –1 , p -value=0.007). CUE was estimated as 0.50 ± 0.03 at the study area and 0.41 ± 0.12 across the reviewed boreal forests. These findings highlight the importance of belowground tree C investments, together with the substantial contribution of understory, ground cover and soil to the boreal forest C balance. Our quantitative insights into the dynamics of aboveground boreal tree C allocation offer additional observational constraints for terrestrial ecosystem models that are often biased in converting C input to biomass, and can guide forest-management strategies for mitigating carbon dioxide emissions.