The persistent terrestrial carbon sink regulates long-term climate change, but its size, location, and mechanisms remain uncertain. One of the most promising terrestrial biogeochemical carbon sequestration mechanisms is the occlusion of carbon within phytoliths, the silicified features that deposit within plant tissues. Using phytolith content–biogenic silica content transfer function obtained from our investigation, in combination with published silica content and aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) data of leaf litter and herb layer in China's forests, we estimated the production of phytolith-occluded carbon (PhytOC) in China's forests. The present annual phytolith carbon sink in China's forests is 1.7 ± 0.4 Tg CO2 yr−1, 30% of which is contributed by bamboo because the production flux of PhytOC through tree leaf litter for bamboo is 3–80 times higher than that of other forest types. As a result of national and international bamboo afforestation and reforestation, the potential of phytolith carbon sink for China's forests and world's bamboo can reach 6.8 ± 1.5 and 27.0 ± 6.1 Tg CO2 yr−1, respectively. Forest management practices such as bamboo afforestation and reforestation may significantly enhance the long-term terrestrial carbon sink and contribute to mitigation of global climate warming.
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