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Historical effects of dissolved organic carbon export and land management decisions on the watershed-scale forest carbon budget of a coastal British Columbia Douglas-fir-dominated landscape
- Smiley, B.P., Trofymow, J.A.
- Carbon balance and management 2017 v.12 no.1 pp. 15
- Pseudotsuga menziesii, aquatic environment, carbon dioxide, carbon sequestration, carbon sinks, deforestation, dissolved organic carbon, forest ecosystems, forestry, global carbon budget, lakes, land management, landscapes, logging, models, sediments, soil, stream flow, temperate forests, watersheds, wood, British Columbia
- BACKGROUND: To address how natural disturbance, forest harvest, and deforestation from reservoir creation affect landscape-level carbon (C) budgets, a retrospective C budget for the 8500 ha Sooke Lake Watershed (SLW) from 1911 to 2012 was developed using historical spatial inventory and disturbance data. To simulate forest C dynamics, data was input into a spatially-explicit version of the Carbon Budget Model-Canadian Forest Sector (CBM-CFS3). Transfers of terrestrial C to inland aquatic environments need to be considered to better capture the watershed scale C balance. Using dissolved organic C (DOC) and stream flow measurements from three SLW catchments, DOC load into the reservoir was derived for a 17-year period. C stocks and stock changes between a baseline and two alternative management scenarios were compared to understand the relative impact of successive reservoir expansions and sustained harvest activity over the 100-year period. RESULTS: Dissolved organic C flux for the three catchments ranged from 0.017 to 0.057 Mg C ha⁻¹ year⁻¹. Constraining CBM-CFS3 to observed DOC loads required parameterization of humified soil C losses of 2.5, 5.5, and 6.5%. Scaled to the watershed and assuming none of the exported terrestrial DOC was respired to CO₂, we hypothesize that over 100 years up to 30,657 Mg C may have been available for sequestration in sediment. By 2012, deforestation due to reservoir creation/expansion resulted in the watershed forest lands sequestering 14 Mg C ha⁻¹ less than without reservoir expansion. Sustained harvest activity had a substantially greater impact, reducing forest C stores by 93 Mg C ha⁻¹ by 2012. However approximately half of the C exported as merchantable wood during logging (~176,000 Mg C) may remain in harvested wood products, reducing the cumulative impact of forestry activity from 93 to 71 Mg C ha⁻¹. CONCLUSIONS: Dissolved organic C flux from temperate forest ecosystems is a small but persistent C flux which may have long term implications for C storage in inland aquatic systems. This is a first step integrating fluvial transport of C into a forest carbon model by parameterizing DOC flux from soil C pools. While deforestation related to successive reservoir expansions did impact the watershed-scale C budget, over multi-decadal time periods, sustained harvest activity was more influential.