Articles | Volume 11, issue 15
Research article
05 Aug 2014
Research article |  | 05 Aug 2014

Increasing biomass carbon stocks in trees outside forests in China over the last three decades

Z. D. Guo, H. F. Hu, Y. D. Pan, R. A. Birdsey, and J. Y. Fang

Abstract. Trees outside forests (TOF) play important roles in national economies, ecosystem services, and international efforts for mitigating climate warming. Detailed assessment of the dynamics of carbon (C) stocks in China's TOF is necessary for fully evaluating the role of the country's trees in the national C cycle. This study is the first to explore the changes in biomass C stocks of China's TOF over the last three decades, using the national forest inventory data in six periods from 1977 to 2008. According to the definition of the forest inventory, China's TOF could be categorized into three groups: woodlands, shrubberies, and trees on non-forest land (including four-side greening trees, defined in the article, and scattered trees). We estimated biomass C stocks of woodlands and trees on non-forest land by using the provincial biomass-volume conversion equations derived from the data of low-canopy forests, and estimated the biomass C stocks of shrubberies using the provincial mean biomass density. Total TOF biomass C stock increased by 62.7% from 823 Tg C (1 Tg = 1012 g) in the initial period of 1977–1981 to 1339 Tg C in the last period of 2004–2008. As a result, China's TOF have accumulated biomass C of 516 Tg during the study period, with 12, 270, and 234 Tg in woodlands, shrubberies, and trees on non-forest land, respectively. The annual biomass C sink of China's TOF averaged 19.1 Tg C yr−1, offsetting 2.1% of the contemporary fossil-fuel CO2 emissions in the country. These estimates are equal to 16.5–20.7% of the contemporary total forest biomass C stock and 27.2% of the total forest biomass C sink in the country, suggesting that TOF are substantial components in China's tree C budget.

Final-revised paper