Articles | Volume 12, issue 3
Research article
12 Feb 2015
Research article |  | 12 Feb 2015

Effects of land management on large trees and carbon stocks

P. E. Kauppi, R. A. Birdsey, Y. Pan, A. Ihalainen, P. Nöjd, and A. Lehtonen

Abstract. Large trees are important and unique organisms in forests, providing ecosystem services including carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere and long-term storage. Some reports have raised concerns about the global decline of large trees. Based on observations from two regions in Finland and three regions in the United States we report that trends of large trees during recent decades have been surprisingly variable among regions. In southern Finland, the growing stock volume of trees larger than 30 cm at breast height increased nearly five-fold during the second half of the 20th century, yet more recently ceased to expand. In the United States, large hardwood trees have become increasingly common in the Northeast since the 1950s, while large softwood trees declined until the mid 1990s as a consequence of harvests in the Pacific region, and then rebounded when harvesting there was reduced. We conclude that in the regions studied, the history of land use and forest management governs changes of the diameter-class distributions of tree populations. Large trees have significant benefits; for example, they can constitute a large proportion of the carbon stock and affect greatly the carbon density of forests. Large trees usually have deeper roots and long lifetimes. They affect forest structure and function and provide habitats for other species. An accumulating stock of large trees in existing forests may have negligible direct biophysical effects on climate through transpiration or forest albedo. Understanding changes in the demography of tree populations makes a contribution to estimating the past impact and future potential of forests in the global carbon budget and to assessing other ecosystem services of forests.

Final-revised paper