Dynamics of aboveground carbon stocks in a selectively logged tropical forest


The expansion of selective logging in tropical forests may be an important source of global carbon emissions. However, the effects of logging practices on the carbon cycle have never been quantified over long periods of time. We followed the fate of more than 60 000 tropical trees over 23 years to assess changes in aboveground carbon stocks in 48 1.56-ha plots in French Guiana that represent a gradient of timber harvest intensities, with and without intensive timber stand improvement (TSI) treatments to stimulate timber tree growth. Conventional selective logging led to emissions equivalent to more than a third of aboveground carbon stocks in plots without TSI (85 Mg C/ha), while plots with TSI lost more than one-half of aboveground carbon stocks (142 Mg C/ha). Within 20 years of logging, plots without TSI sequestered aboveground carbon equivalent to more than 80% of aboveground carbon lost to logging (-70.7 Mg C/ha), and our simulations predicted an equilibrium aboveground carbon balance within 45 years of logging. In contrast, plots with intensive TSI are predicted to require more than 100 years to sequester aboveground carbon lost to emissions. These results indicate that in some tropical forests aboveground carbon storage can be recovered within half a century after conventional logging at moderate harvest intensities.

Ecological Applications