The Full Annual Carbon Balance of Boreal Forests Is Highly Sensitive to Precipitation

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The boreal forest carbon balance is predicted to be particularly sensitive to climate change. Carbon balance estimates of these biomes stem mainly from eddy-covariance measurements of net ecosystem exchange (NEE). However, a full net ecosystem carbon balance (NECB) must include the lateral carbon export (LCE) through discharge. We show that annual LCE at a boreal forest site ranged from 4 to 28%, averaging 11% (standard deviation of 8%), of annual NEE over 13 years. Annual LCE and NEE are strongly anticorrelated; years with weak NEE coincide with high LCE. The decreased NEE in response to increased precipitation is caused by a reduction in the amount of incoming radiation caused by clouds. If our finding is also valid for other sites, it implies that increased precipitation at high latitudes may shift forest NECB in large areas of the boreal biome. Our results call for future analysis of this dual effect of precipitation on NEE and LCE.


  • M. G. Oquist
  • K. Bishop
  • A. Grelle
  • L. Klemedtsson
  • S. J. Kohler
  • H. Laudon
  • Anders Lindroth
  • M. Ottosson Lofvenius
  • M. B. Wallin
  • M. B. Nilsson
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Geography
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-319
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology Letters
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch