Carbon and nitrogen dynamics during forest stand development: a global synthesis


Author for correspondence:
Yuanhe Yang
Tel: + 1 405 325 8578


  • Our knowledge of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) dynamics during stand development is not only essential for evaluating the role of secondary forests in the global terrestrial C cycle, but also crucial for understanding long-term C–N interactions in terrestrial ecosystems. However, a comprehensive understanding of forest C and N dynamics over age sequence remains elusive due to the diverse results obtained across individual studies.
  • Here, we synthesized the results of more than 100 studies to examine C and N dynamics during forest stand development.
  • Our results showed that C accumulated in aboveground vegetation, litter and forest floor pools, while the mineral soil C pool did not exhibit significant changes in most studies. The rate of C changes declined with stand age and approached equilibrium during the later stage of stand development. The rate of N changes exhibited linear increases with that of C changes, indicating that N also accrued in various ecosystem components except mineral soil.
  • These results demonstrate that substantial increases in C pools over age sequence are accompanied by N accretion in forest ecosystems. The concurrent C and N dynamics suggest that forest ecosystems may have an intrinsic ability to preclude progressive N limitation during stand development.