Problems to be solved
Forest may act as sinks or as sources of carbon to the atmosphere depending on many factors. Previous research has provided direct measurement of seasonal and inter-annual carbon exchanges of forest ecosystems. However, only stands near the peak of their productivity were studied. Carbon fixation by the vegetation and carbon release by the soil are know to vary dramatically throughout the life cycle of a forest ecosystem. Understanding the age-related dynamics of net ecosystem exchange is now the most important step towards integrating the forest carbon budgets across space and time to provide decisions-makers with reliable estimates of long-term carbon accumulation, as required by the Kyoto protocol.
Scientific objectives and approach
The primary aim is to improve understanding of the dynamics of forest ecosystem productivity. Present estimates of carbon sink strength of the European forests will be extended to include all stages of the life cycle for forest ecosystems, from initial planting to final logging, to anticipate whether increases or decreases in rotation length have significant consequences on carbon accumulation of European forests. Also disturbance caused by forestry logging operations in carbon budgets of forest ecosystems will be investigated. An interface with existing information on age class distribution of European forests and estimates of carbon sequestration during each stage of forest development will be established. Representative forests at different stages of stand development, from initial planting to final logging, will be selected to make five chronosequences in each of five countries, enabling calculation of carbon budgets for the whole life cycle. Each chronosequence will be centred around one intensive measurement site belonging to the EUROFLUX or MEDEFLU network, to make maximum use of its multi-annual record of Net Ecosystem Productivity. In one chronosequence per country, at least four sites (plus the five EUROFLUX sites) will be selected for analysis, and carbon stocks and fluxes will be measured. Net Ecosystem Productivity will be determined by eddy covariance. The sensors will be mounted on a mobile tower, which will be periodically moved from one site to the other covering the chronosequence throughout the year. Carbon stocks in the vegetation and soil will be measured separately, including the rates of carbon loss by soil respiration. There will be a supporting modelling exercise, to assist integration through space and time, and in particular to aid the prediction of the effects of climate change on the carbon balance. Results will be disseminated not only to the research community, but made available to government agencies, policymakers and the general public by the preparation of briefing notes.
This project aims at generating knowledge at pre-normative level, to inform the debate and influence the preparation of guidelines for the development of environmental legislation, policy and actions in the post-Kyoto context, in particular with respect to Articles 3.3 and 3.4.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts