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Carbon pools and productivity in a 1-km2 heterogeneous forest and peatland mosaic in Minnesota, USA

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Weishampel, Peter; Kolka, Randall; King, Jennifer Y.

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Forest Ecology and Management. 257(2): 747-754.


Determining the magnitude of carbon (C) storage in forests and peatlands is an important step towards predicting how regional carbon balance will respond to climate change. However, spatial heterogeneity of dominant forest and peatland cover types can inhibit accurate C storage estimates. We evaluated ecosystem C pools and productivity in the Marcell Experimental Forest (MEF), in northern Minnesota, USA, using a network of plots that were evenly spaced across a heterogeneous 1-km2 mosaic composed of a mix of upland forests and peatlands. Using a nested plot design, we estimated the standing C stock of vegetation, coarse detrital wood and soil pools. We also estimated aboveground net primary production (ANPP) as well as coarse root production. Additionally we evaluated how vegetation cover types within the study area differed in C storage. The total ecosystem C pool did not vary significantly among upland areas dominated by aspen (160 ± 13 Mg C ha-1), mixed hardwoods (153 ± 19 Mg C ha-1), and conifers (197 ± 23 Mg C ha-1). Live vegetation accounted for approximately 50% of the total ecosystem C pool in these upland areas, and soil (including forest floor) accounted for another 35-40%, with remaining C stored as detrital wood. Compared to upland areas, total C stored in peatlands was much greater, 1286 ± 125 Mg C ha-1, with 90-99% of that C found in peat soils that ranged from 1 to 5 m in depth. Forested areas ranged from 2.6 to 2.9 Mg C ha-1 in ANPP, which was highest in conifer-dominated upland areas. In alder-dominated and black spruce-dominated peatland areas, ANPP averaged 2.8 Mg C ha-1, and in open peatlands, ANPP averaged 1.5 Mg C ha-1. In treed areas of forest and peatlands, our estimates of coarse root production ranged from 0.1 to 0.2 Mg C ha-1. Despite the lower production in open peatlands, all peatlands have acted as long-term C sinks over hundreds to thousands of years and store significantly more C per unit area than is stored in uplands. Despite occupying only 13% of our study area, peatlands store almost 50% of the C contained within it. Because C storage in peatlands depends largely on climatic drivers, the impact of climate changes on peatlands may have important ramifications for C budgets of the western Great Lakes region.


Carbon storage; Northern forests; Peatlands; Net primary production


Weishampel, Peter; Kolka, Randall; King, Jennifer Y. 2009. Carbon pools and productivity in a 1-km2 heterogeneous forest and peatland mosaic in Minnesota, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 257(2): 747-754.

Last updated on: October 7, 2014