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Individual tree biomass equations or biomass expansion factors for assessment of carbon stock changes in living biomass – A comparative study

Petersson, Hans, Holm, Sören, Ståhl, Göran, Alger, David, Fridman, Jonas, Lehtonen, Aleksi, Lundström, Anders, Mäkipää, Raisa
Forest ecology and management 2012 v.270 pp. 78-84
United Nations, biomass, branches, carbon dioxide, carbon sinks, climate change, equations, forest inventory, greenhouse gas emissions, land use change, leaves, national forests, roots, stemwood, trees, uncertainty analysis
Signatory countries to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its supplementary Kyoto Protocol (KP) are obliged to report greenhouse gas emissions and removals. Changes in the carbon stock of living biomass should be reported using either the default or stock change methods of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) under the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry sector. Traditionally, volume estimates are used as a forestry measures. Changes in living biomass may be assessed by first estimating the change in the volume of stem wood and then converting this volume to whole tree biomass using biomass expansion factors (BEFs). However, this conversion is often non-trivial because the proportion of stem wood increases with tree size at the expense of branches, foliage, stump and roots. Therefore, BEFs typically vary over time and their use may result in biased estimates. The objective of this study was to evaluate differences between biomass estimates obtained using biomass equations and BEFs with particular focus on uncertainty analysis. Assuming that the development of tree fractions in different ways can be handled by individual biomass equations, BEFs for standing stock were shown to overestimate the biomass sink capacity (Sweden). Although estimates for BEFs derived for changes in stock were found to be unbiased, the estimated BEFs varied substantially over time (0.85–1.22ton CO₂/m³). However, to some extent this variation may be due to random sampling errors rather than actual changes. The highest accuracy was obtained for estimates based on biomass equations for different tree fractions, applied to data from the Swedish National Forest Inventory using a permanent sample design (estimated change in stock 1990–2005: 420million tons CO₂, with a standard error amounting to 26.7million tons CO₂) Many countries have adopted such a design combined with the stock change method for reporting carbon stock changes under the UNFCCC/KP.