Age-dependent forest carbon sink: Estimation via inverse modeling

Tao Zhou, Peijun Shi, Gensuo Jia, Yongjiu Dai, Xiang Zhao, Wei Shangguan, Ling Du, Hao Wu, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Forests have been recognized to sequester a substantial amount of carbon (C) from the atmosphere. However, considerable uncertainty remains regarding the magnitude and time course of the C sink. Revealing the intrinsic relationship between forest age and C sink is crucial for reducing uncertainties in prediction of forest C sink potential. In this study, we developed a stepwise data assimilation approach to combine a process-based Terrestrial ECOsystem Regional model, observations from multiple sources, and stochastic sampling to inversely estimate carbon cycle parameters including carbon sink at different forest ages for evergreen needle-leaved forests in China. The new approach is effective to estimate age-dependent parameter of maximal light-use efficiency (R2 = 0.99) and, accordingly, can quantify a relationship between forest age and the vegetation and soil C sinks. The estimated ecosystem C sink increases rapidly with age, peaks at 0.451 kg C m-2 yr-1 at age 22 years (ranging from 0.421 to 0.465 kg C m-2 yr-1), and gradually decreases thereafter. The dynamic patterns of C sinks in vegetation and soil are significantly different. C sink in vegetation first increases rapidly with age and then decreases. C sink in soil, however, increases continuously with age; it acts as a C source when the age is less than 20 years, after which it acts as a sink. For the evergreen needle-leaved forest, the highest C sink efficiency (i.e., C sink per unit net primary productivity) is approximately 60%, with age between 11 and 43 years. Overall, the inverse estimation of carbon cycle parameters can make reasonable estimates of age-dependent C sequestration in forests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2473-2492
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • carbon management
  • data assimilation
  • forest age
  • forest carbon sink

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Forestry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Soil Science
  • Palaeontology
  • Ecology
  • Atmospheric Science


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