Comparing forest carbon stock losses between logging and wildfire in forests with contrasting responses to fire
Forest Ecology and Management
Disturbance plays an important role in determining whether forests are carbon sinks or sources. Logging and wildfire are common widespread disturbances known to significantly reduce carbon stocks in carbon rich forests, such as, the tall forests of south-eastern Australia. Most tall forests in south-eastern Australia are dominated by globally unique resprouting Eucalypts that experience limited mortality after high severity wildfire. However, the most carbon dense forests in the region are dominated by non-resprouting Eucalypts that, like many other species associated with carbon dense forests around the world, experience stand replacement after high severity wildfire. We used space-for-time surveys to measure how above ground carbon stocks change with time since logging and time since wildfire in resprouting and non-resprouting Eucalypt forests in south-eastern Australia. Logging reduced above ground carbon stocks much more than wildfire in both forest types. Carbon stock losses caused by wildfire were more substantial in non-resprouting forests than resprouting forests, which experience only minor losses after wildfire. The recovery of carbon stocks after wildfire began to asymptote after approximately 40 years but increased almost continuously with time since logging in both forest types. Carbon stock losses associated with logging represent a much greater departure from natural disturbance in resprouting forests, because wildfire causes relatively little carbon loss in resprouting forests compared to non-resprouting forests. This analysis highlights the need to consider specific biological responses when assessing forest carbon stock losses associated with disturbance. Consideration of these dynamics is essential in addressing carbon stock risk mitigation.
Open Access Status
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Ecological Society of Australia