Sustaining Carbon Storage: Lessons from Hemiboreal Old-Growth Coniferous and Deciduous Forest Stands


For the last three decades, the area of old-growth forest stands in Europe has continued to increase as has their importance in achieving forest-related policy goals. This has triggered an increase in research interest in old-growth forests, both from climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection perspectives. However, carbon stock in old-growth stands in European hemiboreal forests had not been systematically studied. Therefore, in this article, we characterize differences in carbon stock between mature and old-growth stands on fertile mineral soils in hemiboreal Latvia to contribute to the understanding of carbon storage changes under different management strategies for forest lands. Carbon stock varied significantly both between old-growth stands of different dominant tree species and between mature (1.9–2.3 times younger) and old-growth stages of the same dominant species in forest stands. The carbon stock of tree biomass and deadwood was larger in old-growth stands, but their mean annual carbon stock change was significantly lower than in mature stands (27% to 47% depending on dominant tree species). Old-growth stands can serve as carbon reservoirs in areas with limited natural disturbances; however, for maintenance of climate neutrality, it is essential to expand the area of managed stands with larger annual carbon stock increase.

Forest Science