Can increased weathering rates due to future warming compensate for base cation losses following whole-tree harvesting in spruce forests?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Whole-tree harvesting, i.e. harvesting of stems, branches and tops, has become increasingly common during recent decades due to the increased demand for renewable energy. Whole-tree harvesting leads to an increase in base cation losses from the ecosystem, which can counteract recovery from acidification. An increase in weathering rates due to higher temperatures is sometimes suggested as a process that may counteract the acidifying effect of whole-tree harvesting. In this study the potential effect of increasing temperature on weathering rates was compared with the increase in base cation losses following whole-tree harvesting in spruce forests, along a temperature gradient in Sweden. The mechanistic model PROFILE was used to estimate weathering rates at National Forest Inventory sites at today’s temperature and the temperature in 2050, as estimated by two different climate projections. The same dataset was used to calculate base cation losses following stem-only and whole-tree harvesting. The calculations showed that the increase in temperature until 2050 would result in an increase in the base cation weathering rate of 20–33 %, and that whole-tree harvesting would lead to an increase in base cation losses of 66 % on average, compared to stem-only harvesting. A sensitivity analysis showed that moisture changes are important for future weathering rates, but the effect of the temperature change was dominating even when the most extreme moisture changes were applied. It was concluded that an increase in weathering rates resulting from higher temperatures would not compensate for the increase in base cation losses following whole-tree harvesting, except in the northernmost part of Sweden.


External organisations
  • Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute
  • Stockholm University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Geochemistry
  • Agricultural Science, Forestry and Fisheries


  • Acidification, Climate change, Forest fuels, Weathering, Whole-tree harvesting
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-105
Number of pages17
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Mar 1
Publication categoryResearch

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