Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2016, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (4): 304-317.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2016.0017

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Current stocks and rate of sequestration of forest carbon in Gansu Province, China

Jin-Hong GUAN1,2, Sheng DU1,3,*(), Ji-Min CHENG1,3, Chun-Rong WU4, Guo-Qing LI1,3, Lei DENG2, Jian-Guo ZHANG3, Qiu-Yue HE2, Wei-Yu SHI5   

  1. 1State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on Loess Plateau, Northwest A & F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China

    2College of Forestry, Northwest A & F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China

    3Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Water Resources, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China

    4Gansu Desert Control Research Institute, Lanzhou 730000, China
    5State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an 710075, China
  • Received:2016-01-12 Accepted:2016-03-30 Online:2016-04-29 Published:2016-04-30
  • Contact: Sheng DU


Carbon sequestration is the basic function and most primary service of forest ecosystems, and plays a vital role in mitigating the global climate change. However, carbon storage and allocation in forest ecosystems have been less studied at regional scales than at forest stand levels, and the results are subject to uncertainty due to inconsistent methodologies. In this study we aim to obtain relatively accurate estimates of forest carbon stocks and sequestration rate at a provincial scale (regional) based on plot surveys of plants and soils.
In consideration of the areas and distributions of major forest types, 212 sampling plots, covering different age classes and origins (natural forests vs. planted forests), were surveyed in Gansu Province in northern China. Field investigations were conducted for vegetation layers (trees, shrubs, herbs and litter), soil profiles, and sampling of both plant materials and soils for laboratory analyses. Regional carbon stocks were calculated by up-scaling the carbon densities of all forest types with their corresponding areas. Carbon sequestration rate was estimated by referencing the reports of national forest inventory data for different periods.
Important findings Forest carbon stocks at the provincial scale were estimated at 612.43 Tg C, including 179.04 Tg C in biomass and 433.39 Tg C in soil organic materials. Specifically, natural forests stored 501.42 Tg C, approximately 4.52 times than that of the plantations. Biomass carbon density in both natural forests and plantations showed an increasing trend with stand age classes, and was greater in natural forests than in plantations within the same age classes. Soil carbon density also increased with stand age classes in natural forests, but the highest value occurred at the pre-mature stage in plantations. The weighted average of regional biomass carbon density was at 72.43 Mg C·hm-2, with the average value of 90.52 Mg C·hm-2 in natural forests and 33.79 Mg C·hm-2 in plantations, respectively. In 1996, vegetation stored 132.47 Tg C in natural forests and 12.81 Tg C in plantations, respectively, and the values increased to 152.41 and 26.63 Tg C in 2011, with the mean carbon sequestration rates of 1.33 and 0.92 Tg C·a-1. Given that young and middle-aged forests account for a large proportion (62.28%) of the total forest areas, the region is expected to have substantial potential of carbon sequestration.

Key words: carbon density, carbon storage, carbon sequestration rate, forest ecosystem, Gansu Province