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Open Access Research

Potential stocks and increments of woody biomass in the European Union under different management and climate scenarios

Georg E Kindermann1*, Stefan Schörghuber2, Tapio Linkosalo3, Anabel Sanchez4, Werner Rammer2, Rupert Seidl2 and Manfred J Lexer2

Author Affiliations

1 International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), , Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria

2 , University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Gregor Mendel Straße 33, A-1180 Wien, Österreich

3 The Finnish Forest Research Institute, , PL 18, FI-01301 Vantaa, Finland

4 Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF), Edifici C Campus de Bellaterra (UAB), 08193 Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain

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Carbon Balance and Management 2013, 8:2  doi:10.1186/1750-0680-8-2

Published: 1 February 2013

Abstract

Background

Forests play an important role in the global carbon flow. They can store carbon and can also provide wood which can substitute other materials. In EU27 the standing biomass is steadily increasing. Increments and harvests seem to have reached a plateau between 2005 and 2010. One reason for reaching this plateau will be the circumstance that the forests are getting older. High ages have the advantage that they typical show high carbon concentration and the disadvantage that the increment rates are decreasing. It should be investigated how biomass stock, harvests and increments will develop under different climate scenarios and two management scenarios where one is forcing to store high biomass amounts in forests and the other tries to have high increment rates and much harvested wood.

Results

A management which is maximising standing biomass will raise the stem wood carbon stocks from 30 tC/ha to 50 tC/ha until 2100. A management which is maximising increments will lower the stock to 20 tC/ha until 2100. The estimates for the climate scenarios A1b, B1 and E1 are different but there is much more effect by the management target than by the climate scenario. By maximising increments the harvests are 0.4 tC/ha/year higher than in the management which maximises the standing biomass. The increments until 2040 are close together but around 2100 the increments when maximising standing biomass are approximately 50 % lower than those when maximising increments. Cold regions will benefit from the climate changes in the climate scenarios by showing higher increments.

Conclusions

The results of this study suggest that forest management should maximise increments, not stocks to be more efficient in sense of climate change mitigation. This is true especially for regions which have already high carbon stocks in forests, what is the case in many regions in Europe. During the time span 2010–2100 the forests of EU27 will absorb additional 1750 million tC if they are managed to maximise increments compared if they are managed to maximise standing biomass. Incentives which will increase the standing biomass beyond the increment optimal biomass should therefore be avoided. Mechanisms which will maximise increments and sustainable harvests need to be developed to have substantial amounts of wood which can be used as substitution of non sustainable materials.