Carbon and nitrogen dynamics during forest stand development: A global synthesis

Yuanhe Yang, Yiqi Luo, Adrien C. Finzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


Our knowledge of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) dynamics during stand development is not only essential for evaluating the role of secondary forests in the global terrestrial C cycle, but also crucial for understanding long-term C-N interactions in terrestrial ecosystems. However, a comprehensive understanding of forest C and N dynamics over age sequence remains elusive due to the diverse results obtained across individual studies. Here, we synthesized the results of more than 100 studies to examine C and N dynamics during forest stand development. Our results showed that C accumulated in aboveground vegetation, litter and forest floor pools, while the mineral soil C pool did not exhibit significant changes in most studies. The rate of C changes declined with stand age and approached equilibrium during the later stage of stand development. The rate of N changes exhibited linear increases with that of C changes, indicating that N also accrued in various ecosystem components except mineral soil. These results demonstrate that substantial increases in C pools over age sequence are accompanied by N accretion in forest ecosystems. The concurrent C and N dynamics suggest that forest ecosystems may have an intrinsic ability to preclude progressive N limitation during stand development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)977-989
Number of pages13
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon accumulation
  • Carbon-nitrogen interactions
  • Disturbance
  • Forest ecosystems
  • Mineral soil
  • Nitrogen accretion
  • Nitrogen capital
  • Stand age

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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