A large carbon sink in the woody biomass of northern forests

R. B. Myneni, J. Dong, C. J. Tucker, R. K. Kaufmann, P. E. Kauppi, J. Liski, L. Zhou, V. Alexeyev, M. K. Hughes

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504 Scopus citations


The terrestrial carbon sink, as of yet unidentified, represents 15-30% of annual global emissions of carbon from fossil fuels and industrial activities. Some of the missing carbon is sequestered in vegetation biomass and, under the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, industrialized nations can use certain forest biomass sinks to meet their greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitments. Therefore, we analyzed 19 years of data from remote-sensing spacecraft and forest inventories to identify the size and location of such sinks. The results, which cover the years 1981-1999, reveal a picture of biomass carbon gains in Eurasian boreal and North American temperate forests and losses in some Canadian boreal forests. For the 1.42 billion hectares of Northern forests, roughly above the 30th parallel, we estimate the biomass sink to be 0.68 ± 0.34 billion tons carbon per year, of which nearly 70% is in Eurasia, in proportion to its forest area and in disproportion to its biomass carbon pool. The relatively high spatial resolution of these estimates permits direct validation with ground data and contributes to a monitoring program of forest biomass sinks under the Kyoto protocol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14784-14789
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
StatePublished - Dec 18 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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