Toward consistent measurements of carbon accumulation: A multi-site assessment of biomass and basal area increment across Europe

Flurin Babst, Olivier Bouriaud, Ross Alexander, Valerie Trouet, David Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


The use of tree-ring data in carbon cycle research has so far been limited because traditional study designs are not geared toward quantifying forest carbon accumulation. Existing studies that assessed biomass increment from tree rings were often confined to individual sites and used inconsistent sampling schemes. We applied a consistent biomass-oriented sampling design at five managed forest sites located in different climate zones to assess the annual carbon accumulation in above-ground woody tissues (i.e. stems and branches) and its climate response. Radial growth and biometric measurements were combined to reconstruct the annual biomass increment in individual trees and upscaled to the site level. In addition to this, we estimated that 32-60 trees are required at these five sites to robustly quantify carbon accumulation rates. Tree dimensions and growth rates varied considerably among sites as a function of differing stand density, climatic limitations, and management interventions. Accordingly, mean site-level carbon accumulation rates between 65gCm-2y-1 and 225gCm-2y-1 were reconstructed for the 1970-2009 period. A comparison of biomass increment with the widely used basal area increment (BAI) revealed very similar growth trends but emphasized the merits of biomass assessments due to species-specific BAI/biomass relationship. Our study illustrates the benefits and challenges of combining tree-ring data with biometric measurements and promotes the consistent application of a standardized sampling protocol across large spatial scales. It is thus viewed as a conceptual basis for future use of tree-ring data to approach research questions related to forest productivity and the terrestrial carbon balance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-161
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • Carbon sink
  • Climate
  • Growth
  • NPP
  • Productivity
  • Sampling scheme
  • Tree ring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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