Nutrient and carbon budgets in forest soils as decision support in sustainable forest management

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Knowledge about the nutrient and carbon budgets in forest soils is essential to maintain sustainable production, but also in several environmental issues, such as acidification, eutrophication and climate change. The budgets are strongly influenced by atmospheric deposition as well as forestry. This study demonstrates how budget calculations for nitrogen (N), carbon (C) and base cations (BC) can be used as a basis for policy decisions on a regional level in Sweden. The study was based on existing nutrient and C budget calculations on a regional scale in Sweden. The nutrient budgets have been calculated for each square in a national 5 km x 5 km net by means of mass balances including deposition, harvest losses, leaching, weathering (BC) and fixation (N). Scenarios with different deposition and forestry intensity have been run and illustrated on maps. A simplified C budget has been estimated by multiplying the N accumulation with the C/N ratio in the organic layer, based on the assumption that the C/N ratio in the accumulating organic matter is equal to the ratio in the soil organic matter pool. The budget approaches differ from earlier budget studies since they involve regional high resolution data, combine deposition and forestry scenarios and integrate different environmental aspects. The results indicate that whole-tree harvesting will cause net losses of N and base cations in large parts of Sweden, which means that forestry will not be sustainable unless nutrients are added through compensatory fertilization. To prevent net losses following whole-tree harvesting, compensatory fertilization of base cations would be required in almost the whole country, whereas N fertilization would be needed mainly in the northern half of Sweden. The results further suggest that today's recommendations for N fertilization should be revised in southern Sweden by applying the southwest-northeast gradient of the N budget calculations. The C and N accumulation calculations show that C sequestration in Swedish forest soils is not an effective or sustainable way to decrease the net carbon dioxide emissions. A better way is to apply whole-tree harvesting and use the branches, tops and needles as biofuel replacing fossil fuels. This could reduce the present carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels substantially. The study shows that high resolution budget calculations that illuminate different aspects of sustainability in forest ecosystems are important tools for identifying problem areas, investigating different alternatives through scenario analyses and developing new policies. Cooperation with stakeholders increases the probability that the research will be useful. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All fights reserved.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Chemical Engineering


  • decision-support, policy, harvesting, deposition, forestry, sustainability, Sweden
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-174
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch