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Quantifying climate change effects on future forest biomass availability using yield tables improved by mechanistic scaling.

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Forests and wood products play a major role in climate change mitigation strategies and the transition from a fossil-based economy to a circular bioeconomy. Accurate estimates of future forest productivity are crucial to predict the carbon sequestration and wood provision potential of forests. Since long, forest managers have used empirical yield tables as a cost-effective and reliable way to predict forest growth. However, recent climate change-induced growth shifts raised doubts about the long-term validity of these yield tables. In this study, we propose a methodology to improve available yield tables of 11 tree species in the Netherlands and Flanders, Belgium. The methodology uses scaling functions derived from climate-sensitive process-based modelling (PBM) that reflect state-of-the-art projections of future growth trends. Combining PBM and stand information from the empirical yield tables for the region of Flanders, we found that for the period 1987-2016 stand productivity has on average increased by 13% compared to 1961-1990. Furthermore, simulations indicate that this positive growth trend is most likely to persist in the coming decades, for all considered species, climate or site conditions. Nonetheless, results showed that local site variability is equally important to consider as the in- or exclusion of the CO2 fertilization effect or different climate projections, when assessing the magnitude of forests' response to climate change. Our projections suggest that incorporating these climate change-related productivity changes lead to a 7% increase in standing stock and a 22% increase in sustainably potentially harvestable woody biomass by 2050. The proposed methodology and resulting estimates of climate-sensitive projections of future woody biomass stocks will facilitate the further incorporation of forests and their products in global and regional strategies for the transition to a climate-smart circular bioeconomy.
Journal: Science of the Total Environment
ISSN: 0048-9697
Volume: 833
Pages: 155189