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The line of argumentation presented by Luyssaert et al. In fact, Luyssaert et al. Based on this difference calculation Luyssaert et al. It is not our aim to put the approaches and results of gas flux measurements into question, but we critically challenge the respective sufficiency of a difference calculation for drawing conclusions on the mitigation potential of old-growth forests.
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Results from gas flux measurement from above or within the crown layer for the determination of the NEP must be viewed from a wider angle than simply establishing a numerical balance that assigns the residual differences from measured quantities to e. Uncertainties of current flux measurements, measured biomass components and applied calculation methods render further studies for conclusions of carbon flux from atmospheric carbon to biomass carbon and soil carbon and related carbon sequestration potentials of old-growth forests necessary compare Luyssaert et al.
This holds especially true where further implications such as the impact of CO 2 fertilisation and nitrogen depositions are drawn. In a later publication on the European forest carbon balance Luyssaert et al. These recently published figures reduce previous results 1. Still, the main intention of Luyssaert et al. Of major concern is the reference made by other authors to the results presented by Luyssaert et al. Based on their findings old-growth or unmanaged forests can provide higher sequestration rates than managed forests where large amounts of dead organic matter are transferred to the soil carbon pools.
Considering the loss of forest biomass by timber harvesting and the potentially disturbing impact of harvesting activities on the forest floor, those results are evident. However, inferring from CO 2 flux measurements to soil carbon sequestration rates and especially the quantification of carbon sequestration rates of unmanaged forests must be considered to be critical. In line with the argumentation given by Luyssaert et al. Drawing conclusions from NPP on the productivity of forest stands needs to take into account the underlying uncertainties of carbon fluxes between different pools and should be supported by in situ measurements and related models.
Comparable caution must be taken when soil carbon inventories are used for complementing CO 2 flux measures: especially soil carbon inventories are related to high uncertainties [ 29 , 30 ] and allow only limited conclusions when the accuracy of estimates is ignored. Schulze et al. Besides direct management impacts tree growth is influenced by the effect of changing climate conditions, of CO 2 fertilisation and of nitrogen depositions from the atmosphere de Vries et al. Burschel and Huss describe for central European regions that the interrelations between forest management and soil are already superimposed by anthropogenic immissions, predominantly nitrogen depositions, and increased atmospheric CO 2 concentrations [ 33 ].
According to Burschel and Huss those impacts overcome and often over-compensate historical nutrient deficiencies. They show e. Further studies support those observations: Magnani et al. We believe that forests respond to temperature largely because microbial activity increases and the soil organic matter decomposes more rapidly. This releases more nutrients which are needed for tree growth.
Laubhann et al. This impact is relevant to managed as well as unmanaged forests and could explain observed deviations from past growth rates as described by Spiecker et al.
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While Magnani et al. Mund et al. Therefore, they conclude that the growth of Norway spruce Picea abies is significantly higher than indicated in common yield tables representing growing conditions from before With a similar point of view, Schulze et al. Forest management also influences growth rates by controlling stand density, and management practises have been changing over recent decades. Additional factors that might be influencing forest growth rate are increased temperature and carbon dioxide concentration, or nitrogen deposition from the atmosphere.
In summary, changing growing conditions are obviously correlated to an increase of carbon sequestration: slightly increased temperatures, possibly an increased CO 2 concentration and obviously nitrogen fertilisation do provide more favourable growing conditions for temperate forests.
Vetter et al. Those environmental changes are long-range and transboundary in nature and thus have impacts on forest stands irrespective of their management status.
Additional carbon uptake cannot be attributed to unmanaged forest only. It is widely accepted that the growth of managed forests is accelerated by recent environmental changes [ 21 , 32 , 37 , 39 , 40 , 42 , 43 ]. Increased biomass growth is a phenomenon observed in the entire central European forests and thus does not qualify to stipulate any additional benefits of unmanaged forests in terms of increased carbon sequestration, compared to managed forests. Apart from positive or negative impacts on growth, changing environmental conditions also influence forest structures, disturbance regimes, species spectrum, humus turnover, soil carbon storage etc.
Consequently, these measurable positive effects on additional carbon sequestration are not accountable under the Kyoto Protocol [ 21 , 44 ]. As similar indirect anthropogenic effects on unmanaged forests are to be considered for managed forest stands as well, the importance of assessing and evaluating the direct human-induced impact on forest growth and carbon sequestration is obvious. Human-induced changes for increased carbon sequestration, e.
Another method to separate human-induced from non human-induced impacts for accountable credits and debits from LULUCF is referring to the difference of emissions between two periods [ 44 ]. Here the assumption is made that non-human-induced impacts on the reference period remains at similar levels for the accounting period, while any change between the two periods is assigned to human-induced impacts.
Still, both accounting approaches cannot reflect the actual magnitude of the direct human-induced impact on forest growth and carbon sequestration. This again reflects the difficulties and uncertainties by attempting to separate human-induced from non-human-induced impacts on forest growth. Lindner et al. Since the accountability of harvested wood products was proposed for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol during COP 17 [ 47 ], it acknowledges that harvested wood products enhance the mitigation potential by carbon storage and substitution of fossil fuels by energetic and material use.
This offers a substantial reduction of CO 2 emissions [ 48 - 52 ]. In this comprising view the mitigation potential of forest management and timber utilisation offers far higher rates than the mere conservation of carbon stocks in forests [ 49 , 53 - 56 ]. The use of CO 2 flux measurements for determining sequestration rates and relating those to biological processes is a valid and important method, e.
However, utilising of those results to quantify the amount of carbon stored in different forest carbon pools is subject to major uncertainties. Advice for good forest practice or political decision making becomes critical when these underlying uncertainties are ignored. Additional CO 2 sequestration by increasing growth rates has been observed for managed as well as unmanaged forests in central Europe [ 33 , 35 , 40 ] and bears favourable potentials for the mitigation of climate change.
Significant evidence exists that such additional growth is related to changed environmental conditions, i. The magnitude of its impact on growth, respectively biomass accumulation or carbon sequestration, depends on complementing conditions like former nutrient deficiencies, moisture and stand age. Still, those impacts equally affect managed as well as unmanaged forests. By that, it does not allow unidirectional conclusions against or in favour of forest management, e.
Moreover, the experience that older forests had the strongest relative increase in carbon sequestration should lead to the reconsideration of common management practises. A more accurate assessment of the impact of management decisions on biomass growth and carbon sequestration could support a more suitable accounting of LULUCF, e. It could as well lead to better understanding about the importance of unmanaged and managed forest stands and acknowledge further ambitions for mitigation of future climate change, and justify respective incentives.
It is widely accepted that unmanaged stands or old-growth forests are of paramount importance for carbon storage and manifold further environmental services. Maintaining and enhancing the role of forests in the global carbon cycle needs to carefully compare the potential of different forest management strategies to mitigate climate change and to extend beyond a mere consideration of unmanaged, old-growth forests.
However, various authors underline the importance and existing advantages of forest management compared to unmanaged stands for the additional uptake of atmospheric CO 2 and for the mitigation of climate change [ 10 - 12 , 22 , 57 , 58 ]. For a holistic view it is essential to widen the discussion and consider the dynamics and potential of carbon sequestration in forests beyond forest ecosystems and include the timber sector.