Evidence for environmentally enhanced forest growth. Academic Article uri icon


  • Forests in the middle and high latitudes of the northern hemisphere function as a significant sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). This carbon (C) sink has been attributed to two processes: age-related growth after land use change and growth enhancement due to environmental changes, such as elevated CO2, nitrogen deposition, and climate change. However, attribution between these two processes is largely controversial. Here, using a unique time series of an age-class dataset from six national forest inventories in Japan and a new approach developed in this study (i.e., examining changes in biomass density at each age class over the inventory periods), we quantify the growth enhancement due to environmental changes and its contribution to biomass C sink in Japan's forests. We show that the growth enhancement for four major plantations was 4.0?7.7 Mg C?ha(-1) from 1980 to 2005, being 8.4-21.6% of biomass C sequestration per hectare and 4.1-35.5% of the country's total net biomass increase of each forest type. The growth enhancement differs among forest types, age classes, and regions. Our results provide, to our knowledge, the first ground-based evidence that global environmental changes can increase C sequestration in forests on a broad geographic scale and imply that both the traits and age of trees regulate the responses of forest growth to environmental changes. These findings should be incorporated into the prediction of forest C cycling under a changing climate.

publication date

  • July 1, 2014