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Effects of Stand and Inter-Specific Stocking on Maximizing Standing Tree Carbon Stocks in the Eastern United States

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There is expanding interest in management strategies that maximize forest carbon (C) storage to mitigate increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. The tremendous tree species diversity and range of stand stocking found across the eastern United States presents a challenge for determining optimal combinations for the maximization of standing tree C storage. Using a nationwide annual forest inventory, we quantified trends in standing tree C across a variety of species mixtures and stocking attributes for 24 of the most common tree species in the eastern United States. We found that as interspecific stocking decreased, such that the majority of stand stocking was in a single species, maximum live tree aboveground carbon (AGC) decreased by 33% in highly stocked stands across all study species. Maximum standing dead tree AGC was not correlated with stand stocking but instead was related to interspecific stocking with AGC storage being reduced by more than 50% as stands became progressively occupied by one tree species. Although the competitive interactions between individual species and/or functional groups (i.e., shade tolerance) can greatly complicate efforts to assess forest C storage opportunities, some basic tenets identified in this study may refine future research hypotheses and broadly identify species mixtures and associated stocking levels that may maximize AGC storage.

Keywords: biomass; carbon; mixed species management; species diversity; stand density index; stand stocking

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
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