Carbon distribution and aboveground net primary production in aspen, jack pine, and black spruce stands in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada


  • S. T. Gower,

  • J. G. Vogel,

  • J. M. Norman,

  • C. J. Kucharik,

  • S. J. Steele,

  • T. K. Stow


The objectives of this study are to (1) characterize the carbon (C) content, leaf area index, and aboveground net primary production (ANPP) for mature aspen, black spruce, and young and mature jack pine stands at the southern and northern Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study (BOREAS) areas and (2) compare net primary production and carbon allocation coefficients for the major boreal forest types of the world. Direct estimates of leaf area index, defined as one half of the total leaf surface area, range from a minimum of 1.8 for jack pine forests to a maximum of 5.6 for black spruce forests; stems comprise 5 to 15% of the total overstory plant area. In the BOREAS study, total ecosystem (vegetation plus detritus plus soil) carbon content is greatest in the black spruce forests (445,760–479,380 kg C ha−1), with 87 to 88% of the C in the soil, and is lowest in the jack pine stands (68,370–68,980 kg C ha−1) with a similar distribution of carbon in the vegetation and soil. Forest floor carbon content and mean residence time (MRT) also vary more among forest types in a study area than between study areas for a forest type; forest floor MRT range from 16 to 19 years for aspen stands to 28 to 39 years for jack pine stands. ANPP differs significantly among the mature forests at each of the BOREAS study areas, ranging from a maximum of 3490 to 3520 kg C ha−1 yr−1 for aspen stands to 1170 to 1220 kg C ha−1 yr−1 for jack pine stands. Both net primary production (NPP) and carbon allocation differ between boreal evergreen and deciduous forests in the world, suggesting global primary production models should distinguish between these two forest types. On average, 56% of NPP for boreal forests occurs as detritus and illustrates the need to better understand factors controlling aboveground and below-ground detritus production in boreal forests.