Main content area

A large carbon sink in the woody biomass of Northern forests

Myneni, R.B., Dong, J., Tucker, C.J., Kaufmann, R.K., Kauppi, P.E., Liski, J., Zhou, L., Alexeyev, V., Hughes, M.K.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2001 v.98 no.26 pp. 14784-14789
boreal forests, deciduous forests, forest trees, wood, biomass, carbon, remote sensing, temporal variation, chemical constituents of plants, forest inventory, carbon sequestration, Canada, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, United States
The terrestrial carbon sink, as of yet unidentified, represents 15-30% of annual global emissions of carbon from fossil fuels and industrial activities. Some of the missing carbon is sequestered in vegetation biomass and, under the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, industrialized nations can use certain forest biomass sinks to meet their greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitments. Therefore, we analyzed 19 years of data from remote-sensing spacecraft and forest inventories to identify the size and location of such sinks. The results, which cover the years 1981-1999, reveal a picture of biomass carbon gains in Eurasian boreal and North American temperate forests and losses in some Canadian boreal forests. For the 1.42 billion hectares of Northern forests, roughly above the 30th parallel, we estimate the biomass sink to be 0.68 +/- 0.34 billion tons carbon per year, of which nearly 70% is in Eurasia, in proportion to its forest area and in disproportion to its biomass carbon pool. The relatively high spatial resolution of these estimates permits direct validation with ground data and contributes to a monitoring program of forest biomass sinks under the Kyoto protocol.