Temporal evolution of the European forest sector carbon sink from 1950 to 1999

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Estimates of the role of the European terrestrial biosphere in the global carbon cycle still vary by a factor 10. This is due to differences in methods and assumptions employed, but also due to difference in reference periods of the studies. The magnitude of the sink varies between years because of inter-annual variation of short-term climate, but also due to long-term trends in development of the vegetation and its management. For this purpose, we present the results of an application of a carbon bookkeeping model to the forest sector of the European forests from 1950 to 1999. The analysis includes the compartments trees, soils, and wood products. The model uses statistics on European (30 countries excl. CIS) stemwood volume increment, forest area change, fellings, wood products and their international trade, and natural disturbances, supplemented with conversion coefficients, soil parameters and information on management. An (almost uninterrupted) increasing sink (Net Biome Production) in the European forest sector was found, increasing from 0.03 Pg C year (-1) in the 1950s to 0.14 Pg C year (-1) in the 1990s (for resp. 132 million hectares and 140 million hectares of forest). The sink in the tree and the soil compartment were approximately of the same size until 1970. After the 1970s the size of the sink in the tree biomass increases quickly, causing the tree biomass to account for some two thirds of the total sink in the 1990s. The results as presented here have to be regarded with caution especially with regard to the early decades of the analysis and with regard to the soil compartment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-160
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • soil organic-matter
  • co2
  • dioxide
  • balance
  • land
  • sensitivity
  • deposition
  • ecosystem
  • emissions
  • nitrogen

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