Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-242
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-242

  17 Sep 2021

17 Sep 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Carbon sequestration potential of street tree plantings in Helsinki

Minttu Havu1, Liisa Kulmala2,3, Pasi Kolari1, Timo Vesala1,3,4, Anu Riikonen3, and Leena Järvi1,5 Minttu Havu et al.
  • 1Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research / Physics, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • 2Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • 3Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research / Forest Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • 4Yugra State University, 628012, Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia
  • 5Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, University of Helsinki, Finland

Abstract. Cities have become increasingly interested in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing carbon sequestration and storage in urban vegetation and soil as part of their climate mitigation actions. However, most of our knowledge on biogenic carbon cycle is based on data and models from forested ecosystems even though urban nature and microclimate are very different to those in natural or forested ecosystems. There is a need for modelling tools that can correctly consider temporal variations of urban carbon cycle and take the urban specific conditions into account. The main aims of this study are to examine the carbon sequestration potential of two commonly used street tree species (Tilia x vulgaris and Alnus glutinosa) and their soils by taking into account the complexity of urban conditions, and evaluate urban land surface model SUEWS and soil carbon model Yasso15 in simulating carbon sequestration of these street tree plantings at different temporal scales (diurnal, monthly and annual). SUEWS provides the urban microclimate, and photosynthesis and respiration of street trees whereas the soil carbon storage is estimated with Yasso. Both models were run for 2002–2016 and within this period the model performances were evaluated against transpiration estimated from sap flow, soil carbon content and soil moisture measurements from two street tree sites located in Helsinki, Finland.

The models were able to capture the variability in urban carbon cycle due to changes in environmental conditions and tree species. SUEWS simulated the stomatal control and transpiration well (RMSE < 0.31 mm h−1) and was able to produce correct soil moisture in the street soil (nRMSE < 0.23). Yasso was able to simulate the strong decline in initial carbon content but later overestimated respiration and thus underestimated carbon stock slightly (MBE > −5.42 kg C m−2). Over the study period, soil respiration dominated the carbon exchange over carbon sequestration, due to the high initial carbon loss from the soil after the street construction. However, the street tree plantings turned into a modest sink of carbon from the atmosphere on annual scale as the tree and soil respiration approximately balanced photosynthesis. The compensation point when street trees plantings turned from annual source to sink was reached faster by Alnus trees after 12 years, while by Tilia trees after 14 years. Overall, the results indicate the importance of soil in urban carbon sequestration estimations.

Minttu Havu et al.

Status: open (until 12 Nov 2021)

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Minttu Havu et al.

Data sets

Data used in manuscript Carbon sequestration potential of street tree plantings in Helsinki Minttu Havu, Liisa Kulmala, Pasi Kolari, Timo Vesala, Anu Riikonen and Leena Järvi https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5497704

Minttu Havu et al.

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Short summary
The carbon sequestration potential of two street tree species and their soil beneath was quantified with an urban land surface model SUEWS and soil carbon model Yasso. The street tree plantings turned into a modest sink of carbon from the atmosphere after 14 years. Overall, the results indicate the importance of soil in urban carbon sequestration estimations, as soil respiration exceeded the carbon uptake in the early phase, due to the high initial carbon loss from the soil.
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