- The Age of Managed Heathland Communities: Implications for Carbon Storage?
- Plant and Soil
- Volume | Issue number
- 369 | 1-2
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Background and aims
Shrublands are ecosystems vulnerable to climate changes, with key functions such as carbon storage likely to be affected. In dwarf shrublands dominated by Calluna vulgaris, the aboveground carbon allocation is associated with community age and phase of development. As the Calluna community grows older, a shift to net biomass loss occurs and it was hypothesized this would result in carbon stock increases within the soil.
The interaction of community age with ecosystem carbon stocks was investigated through a chronosequence study on three Calluna communities, aged 11, 18 and 27 years.
Aboveground Calluna carbon stock increased significantly from the 11 year community (0.73 kg C m−2) to the 18 year community (1.11 kg C m−2) but did not significantly change from 18 to 27 years (1.0 kg C m−2), indicating a net carbon gain that corresponded with the growth phase of the Calluna plants. Moss was also found to be a relatively large contributor to aboveground carbon stock (e.g. 30 % in the Young community). Moss has often been excluded in aboveground assessments on Calluna heathlands which may have led to previous stock underestimation. Belowground carbon stocks to 25 cm were six to nine times greater than in the aboveground pools. For example in the Young community, 8 % of the carbon stock was located aboveground, 35 % in the organic layer and 55 % in the mineral soil.
Increased heathland age resulted in increased aboveground carbon stock until peak production was reached at approximately 18 years of age. However, the proportionally large belowground carbon stock eclipsed any aboveground effect when total carbon stocks were considered. The investigation emphasized both the importance of including the mineral soil in sampling programs and of consider all major species, such as bryophytes, and vegetation age in carbon stock assessments.
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