Carbon sources and sinks in forest biomes of the former Soviet Union


  • Tatyana P. Kolchugina,

  • Ted S. Vinson


The carbon budget of the forest biomes of the former Soviet Union (FSU) and their sequestration potential were assessed by considering (1) net ecosystem productivity (NEP) of different age forest stands and actual forest coverage, (2) carbon flux related to forest fires, (3) the rate of peat accumulation, and (4) anthropogenic influences. The area of forest biomes in the FSU was estimated at 1426.1 million hectares (Mha); forest ecosystems comprised 799.9 Mha, nonforest ecosystems and arable land comprised 506.3 and 119.9 Mha, respectively. The vegetation pool (phytomass and coarse woody debris) was 68.7 Gt C (carbon). The litter and soil carbon pools were 12.2 and 319.1 Gt C, respectively. The net primary productivity (NPP) of forest biomes ecosystems was 5.6 Gt C/yr, the rate of foliage formation was 2.3 Gt C/yr, the rate of humus formation was 161 Mt C/yr with 73 Mt C/yr in the stable form. The NEP of the forest biomes was assessed from the data on NEP of young, middle-age, and premature forest stands. The NEP of the forest biomes was 825 Mt C/yr. Peat was accumulating at an average rate of 23 Mt C/yr. Carbon effluxes from mortmass, litter, and soil organic matter decomposition were calculated from the NPP, NEP, foliage, and humus formation rates. The efflux from mortmass decomposition was 2.6 Gt C/yr, from litter decomposition 2.1 Gt C/yr, and from soil organic matter decomposition 61 Mt C/yr. Peat combustion represented a carbon efflux of 30 Mt C/yr. The carbon efflux from forest fires and agricultural activities was 199 and 10 Mt C/yr, respectively. Carbon efflux from wood harvesting (carbon sequestration in regrowing vegetation was excluded) was 152 Mt C/yr. Considering all components of the natural carbon cycle and the anthropogenic influences, FSU forest biomes were a net sink of 485 Mt C/yr of atmospheric carbon. The Siberian and Far East forests represent approximately 82% of the net sink. The total carbon sink in FSU forests was equivalent to one half of the annual CO2 fossil fuel emissions in the FSU or one half the carbon released from deforestation in subtropical regions.