Articles | Volume 8, issue 5
Research article
25 May 2011
Research article |  | 25 May 2011

Soil carbon stock increases in the organic layer of boreal middle-aged stands

M. Häkkinen, J. Heikkinen, and R. Mäkipää

Abstract. Changes in the soil carbon stock can potentially have a large influence on global carbon balance between terrestrial ecosystems and atmosphere. Since carbon sequestration of forest soils is influenced by human activities, reporting of the soil carbon pool is a compulsory part of the national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories. Various soil carbon models are applied in GHG inventories, however, the verification of model-based estimates is lacking. In general, the soil carbon models predict accumulation of soil carbon in the middle-aged stands, which is in good agreement with chronosequence studies and flux measurements of eddy sites, but they have not been widely tested with repeated measurements of permanent plots. The objective of this study was to evaluate soil carbon changes in the organic layer of boreal middle-aged forest stands. Soil carbon changes on re-measured sites were analyzed by using soil survey data that was based on composite samples as a first measurement and by taking into account spatial variation on the basis of the second measurement. By utilizing earlier soil surveys, a long sampling interval, which helps detection of slow changes, could be readily available.

The range of measured change in the soil organic layer varied from −260 to 1260 g m−2 over the study period of 16–19 years and 23 ± 2 g m−2 per year, on average. The increase was significant in 6 out of the 38 plots from which data were available. Although the soil carbon change was difficult to detect at the plot scale, the overall increase measured across the middle-aged stands agrees with predictions of the commonly applied soil models. Further verification of the soil models is needed with larger datasets that cover wider geographical area and represent all age classes, especially young stands with potentially large soil carbon source.

Final-revised paper