Carbon stock and density of northern boreal and temperate forests


  • Editor: Josep Penuelas



To infer a forest carbon density map at 0.01° resolution from a radar remote sensing product for the estimation of carbon stocks in Northern Hemisphere boreal and temperate forests.


The study area extends from 30° N to 80° N, covering three forest biomes – temperate broadleaf and mixed forests (TBMF), temperate conifer forests (TCF) and boreal forests (BFT) – over three continents (North America, Europe and Asia).


This study is based on a recently available growing stock volume (GSV) product retrieved from synthetic aperture radar data. Forest biomass and spatially explicit uncertainty estimates were derived from the GSV using existing databases of wood density and allometric relationships between biomass compartments (stem, branches, roots, foliage). We tested the resultant map against inventory-based biomass data from Russia, Europe and the USA prior to making intercontinent and interbiome carbon stock comparisons.


Our derived carbon density map agrees well with inventory data at regional scales (r2 = 0.70–0.90). While 40.7 ± 15.7 petagram of carbon (Pg C) are stored in BFT, TBMF and TCF contain 24.5 ± 9.4 Pg C and 14.5 ± 4.8 Pg C, respectively. In terms of carbon density, we found 6.21 ± 2.07 kg C m−2 retained in TCF and 5.80 ± 2.21 kg C m−2 in TBMF, whereas BFT have a mean carbon density of 4.00 ± 1.54 kg C m−2. Indications of a higher carbon density in Europe compared with the other continents across each of the three biomes could not be proved to be significant.

Main conclusions

The presented carbon density and corresponding uncertainty map give an insight into the spatial patterns of biomass and stand as a new benchmark to improve carbon cycle models and carbon monitoring systems. In total, we found 79.8 ± 29.9 Pg C stored in northern boreal and temperate forests, with Asian BFT accounting for 22.1 ± 8.3 Pg C.