Limits to growth of forest biomass carbon sink under climate change

Kai Zhu, Jian Zhang, Shuli Niu, Chengjin Chu, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Widely recognized as a significant carbon sink, North American forests have experienced a history of recovery and are facing an uncertain future. This growing carbon sink is dictated by recovery from land-use change, with growth trajectory modified by environmental change. To address both processes, we compiled a forest inventory dataset from North America to quantify aboveground biomass growth with stand age across forest types and climate gradients. Here we show, the biomass grows from 90 Mg ha-1 (2000-2016) to 105 Mg ha-1 (2020 s), 128 Mg ha-1 (2050 s), and 146 Mg ha-1 (2080 s) under climate change scenarios with no further disturbances. Climate change modifies the forest recovery trajectory to some extent, but the overall growth is limited, showing signs of biomass saturation. The future (2080s) biomass will only sequester at most 22% more carbon than the current level. Given such a strong sink has limited growth potential, our ground-based analysis suggests policy changes to sustain the carbon sink.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2709
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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