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Publication Information

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Title: Carbon pool and biomass dynamics associated with deforestation, land use, and agricultural abandonment in the neotropics

Author: Kauffman, J.B.; Hughes, R.F.; Heider, C.

Date: 2009

Source: Ecological Applications 19(5): 1211-1222

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Current rates of deforestation and the resulting C emissions in the tropics exceed those of secondary forest regrowth and C sequestration. Changing land-use strategies that would maintain standing forests may be among the least expensive of climate change mitigation options. Further, secondary tropical forests have been suggested to have great value for their potential to sequester atmospheric C. These options require an understanding of and capability to quantify C dynamics at landscape scales. Because of the diversity of physical and biotic features of tropical forests as well as approaches and intensities of land uses within the neotropics, there are tremendous differences in the capacity of different landscapes to store and sequester C. Major gaps in our current knowledge include quantification of C pools, rates and patterns of biomass loss following land-cover change, and quantification of the C storage potential of secondary forests following abandonment. In this paper we present a synthesis and further analyses from recent studies that describe C pools, patterns of C decline associated with land use, and rates of C accumulation following secondary-forest establishment—all information necessary for climate-change mitigation options.

Ecosystem C pools of Neotropical primary forests minimally range from ~141 to 571 Mg/ha, demonstrating tremendous differences in the capacity of different forests to store C. Most of the losses in C and nutrient pools associated with conversion occur when fires are set to remove the slashed forest to prepare sites for crop or pasture establishment. Fires burning slashed primary forests have been found to result in C losses of 62–80% of prefire aboveground pools in dry (deciduous) forest landscapes and 29–57% in wet (evergreen) forest landscapes. Carbon emissions equivalent to the aboveground primary-forest pool arise from repeated fires occurring in the first 4 to 10 years following conversion. Feedbacks of climate change, land-cover change, and increasing habitat fragmentation may result in increases of both the area burned and the total quantity of biomass consumed per unit area by fire. These effects may well limit the capacity for future tropical forests to sequester C and nutrients.

Keywords: C storage potential of secondary forests, carbon sequestration, clean development mechanism (CDM), ecosystem C-pool quantification, fire ecology, land-use/land-cover change, nutrient pools, pastures, REDD strategies, secondary forests, tropical forests, sources and sinks of atmospheric C

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

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Citation:


Kauffman, J.B.; Hughes, R.F.; Heider, C. 2009. Carbon pool and biomass dynamics associated with deforestation, land use, and agricultural abandonment in the neotropics. Ecological Applications 19(5): 1211-1222.

 


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