Carbon Storage Increases Continuously as Trees Grow

by Stephen Johnson

Though it has been assumed that the rate of carbon accumulation declines with the age of an individual tree, little empirical evidence has been produced to support this assumption. Understanding how carbon storage capacity changes throughout the life of the tree is important in modeling carbon dynamics in forests, which can be used to determine how forests will contribute to climate change mitigation plans. Net primary productivity is well known to decline in even-aged forests, as does mass gain per unit leaf area. However, few forests are completely even-aged, and many are subjected to selective logging that removes the largest trees. Proper modeling of the amount of carbon lost through this logging can be used to more accurately price carbon credits for the preservation of natural forests, aiding efforts to keep them intact. In order to determine how carbon storage rates change with tree age, Stephenson et al. (2014) collected data from long-term monitoring plots in tropical and temperate areas across the globe. By measuring the diameter of each tree and using allometric equations, the researchers determined how much carbon was being stored over time. They found that while stand productivity declined with age, individual tree carbon gain rate increased, with no signs of declines at any age. Continue reading