Carbon stocks in temperate forests of south-eastern Australia reflect large tree distribution and edaphic conditions

Fedrigo, Melissa, Kasel, Sabine, Bennett, Lauren T., Roxburgh, Stephen H., and Nitshke, Craig R. (2014) Carbon stocks in temperate forests of south-eastern Australia reflect large tree distribution and edaphic conditions. Forest Ecology and Management, 334. 129 - 143.

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Reducing uncertainty in forest carbon estimates at local and regional scales has become increasingly important due to the centrality of the terrestrial carbon cycle in issues of climate change. Despite relatively limited geographical extent, temperate forests are among the most carbon dense forests in the world. Estimates of carbon in key understorey life forms and belowground components of these forests have often been excluded from previous studies in south-eastern Australia. We estimated above- and belowground carbon stocks (including soil to 0.3 m depth) in stands of cool temperate rainforest ('rainforest'), wet sclerophyll forest ('eucalypt forest'), and mixed rainforest–wet sclerophyll stands ('ecotone forest') across a wide range of environmental conditions and forest structures. We examined relationships among component carbon stocks and a range of environmental variables (edaphic, climatic, spatial) and present the first allometric equations and carbon stock estimates for south-eastern Australian tree ferns. Component carbon stocks were within the range of published values for these stand types. Using multivariate analyses of all component stocks, we detected significantly more carbon in total above- and belowground components in ecotone (697 Mg ha−1, 95% confidence interval 575–819 Mg ha−1) and eucalypt forests (689 Mg ha−1, 605–773 Mg ha−1) than rainforest (550 Mg ha−1, 453–647 Mg ha−1). However, we found no significant differences among the stand types in the proportional distribution of carbon among components despite significant differences in structural composition as indicated by size class distributions of the main genera. Of total carbon, ~48% was stored in trees (>2 cm over-bark diameter), and ~72% of tree carbon was stored in the largest 10% of all trees. The most important environmental variables associated with carbon stocks irrespective of stand type were edaphic variables, most commonly total and available soil nitrogen. Tree fern carbon was the only component stock more strongly associated with climatic and spatial than edaphic variables. Our findings indicate that disturbance mediated changes in stand dynamics could significantly alter total carbon stocks, particularly if more frequent fires limit tree recruitment and increase large tree mortality. Monitoring of these forests for carbon could place greater emphasis on key structural elements associated with the largest proportion of total carbon, the largest trees. By reducing uncertainties associated with estimates of carbon in key stocks, we can better understand potential future changes to the carbon cycle from altered stand dynamics under climate change.

Item ID: 41304
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-7042
Keywords: carbon; forest structure; soil carbon; temperate forest; tree fern
Funders: CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture Flagship, ictorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2015 01:27
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0705 Forestry Sciences > 070502 Forestry Biomass and Bioproducts @ 100%
SEO Codes: 82 PLANT PRODUCTION AND PLANT PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8201 Forestry > 820199 Forestry not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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