Age-related patterns of forest complexity and carbon storage in pine and aspen-birch ecosystems of northern Minnesota, USA
Canadian Journal of Forest Research
Forest managers are seeking strategies to create stands that can adapt to new climatic conditions and simultaneously help mitigate increases in atmospheric CO2. Adaptation strategies often focus on enhancing resilience by maximizing forest complexity in terms of species composition and size structure, while mitigation involves sustaining carbon storage and sequestration. Altered stand age is a fundamental consequence of forest management, and stand age is a powerful predictor of ecosystem structure and function in even-aged stands. However, the relationship between stand age and either complexity or carbon storage and sequestration, especially trade-offs between the two, are not well characterized. We quantified these relationships in clearcut-origin, unmanaged pine and aspen chronosequences ranging from <10 to >130 years in northern Minnesota. Complexity generally increased with age, although compositional complexity changed more over time in aspen forests and structural complexity changed more over time in pine stands. Although individual carbon pools displayed various relationships with stand age, total carbon storage increased with age, whereas carbon sequestration, inferred from changes in storage, decreased sharply with age. These results illustrate the carbon and complexity consequences of varying forest harvest rotation length to favor younger or older forests and provide insight into trade-offs between these potentially conflicting management objectives.