New research reveals multiple limits to forest carbon sinks

Liu Hui, associate researcher of the South China Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and her collaborators discussed the leading factors and research trends of carbon sink research at different temporal and spatial scales, and revealed the multiple limits of forest carbon sink. The results were published in The Innovation.

Schematic diagram of global changes in multiple spatial and temporal scales on carbon sink limits. Photo courtesy of the research team

Forests are the largest carbon sinks in terrestrial ecosystems, and they play an important role in mitigating climate change, mainly through tree growth, which increases ecosystem carbon storage. However, other global change processes also profoundly affect forest carbon sinks, and the trends and degrees of impact vary greatly in time and space, and it is urgent to construct a research framework that assesses the impact of global change on forest carbon sinks at multiple temporal and spatial scales to explore the response and adaptation mechanism of forest carbon sinks to global change.

With the rapid accumulation and development of physiological ecology, community ecology and ecosystem ecology, remote sensing data, new algorithms and process models, the estimation and prediction of forest biomass can be significantly improved at multiple spatial and temporal scales, and the impact of natural extreme disturbances and human activities on forest carbon sinks resulting in a large number of tree deaths will also be better integrated into the research framework.

The results show that the cognitive gap based on plant physiological mechanisms between carbon sink function and climate change at the plant individual and species scale can be bridged by functional trait research, and in the future, it is necessary to accurately select and predict the functional traits of forest biomass based on the key limiting factors of forest growth and death. At the forest community scale, long-term monitoring of community species composition and community structure, combined with tree ring research, has always been the basis for clarifying the dynamic driving factors of forest carbon sinks.

In addition, at the ecosystem scale, the tree growth-death trade-off is closely related to the resilience and resistance of ecosystems, but the determination of environmental thresholds for ecosystem carbon sink function is more complex and difficult, and it is necessary to consider both dynamic thresholds and new equilibriums. At regional and global scales, multi-temporal and large-scale remote sensing images combined with high-resolution lidar (aboveground) and ground-penetrating radar (underground) data can push regional monitoring data up to the global scale, achieving near-global coverage of decades of land surface change and carbon dynamics.

Liu Hui said that under the current situation of intensifying global change and frequent extreme weather events, the study provides support for the comprehensive monitoring and model simulation of scientific systems, and the application of new technologies to quantitatively assess and accurately predict forest biomass and carbon sink functions. (Source: China Science News Zhu Hanbin)

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