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Biodiversity, carbon storage and dynamics of old northern forests

image of Biodiversity, carbon storage and dynamics of old northern forests

Forests play a key role in the global climate system. The Nordic countries have extensive forests with large and growing tree biomass that captures substantial amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Nordic forests are also important for biodiversity, with complex ecosystems providing habitats for about half of all known native species and threatened species in Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Forests also supply the basis for the economically important forest sector. In this report we review current knowledge on the role of old forests in the carbon cycle, their natural dynamics and importance for biodiversity. Based on evidence in the literature, it is clear that old forests continue to accumulate carbon for a long time, well past the normal logging age. The carbon uptake of old forests represents an important co-benefit for the well-documented value of old forests for biodiversity.

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Preface

Forests represent important ecosystems in the Nordic countries, for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and amenity values like outdoor recreation. The significance of old forests for maintaining forest carbon stocks has recently come into stronger focus in the discussions of climate mitigation policies. This has made it important to assess what is known about the amount and variation of carbon stocks in old and managed forests under various environmental conditions. In this report we give a scientifically based overview of the role of old forests in the carbon cycle and how carbon uptake may represent co-benefits for the well-documented value of old forests for biodiversity. Our focus has been on the variation in forest carbon stocks and uptake of CO2. We have not considered the wider climate effects of forest management, e.g., related to changes in albedo or the use of forest biomass for energy or various products. Such total system and life cycle studies would go far beyond the scope and resources available for this assessment.

English

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