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IPCC guidelines lead to an underestimation of uncertainty of forest carbon sink estimates

Date:
November 26, 2015
Source:
Natural Resources Institute Finland
Summary:
According to the guidelines provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), long-term averages should be used as weather data when calculating the carbon balance of forests. When the interannual variation caused by weather is excluded, uncertainty estimates for soil carbon stock change become unrealistically small, says a group of experts.
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Weather conditions strongly affect the litter production by vegetation and the decomposition of organic matter, in particular, and thus soil carbon stock changes. Upland soil carbon sink accounts for approximately 20% of the forest carbon sinks.
Credit: Erkki Oksanen/Luke

According to the guidelines provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), long-term averages should be used as weather data when calculating the carbon balance of forests. When the interannual variation caused by weather is excluded, uncertainty estimates for soil carbon stock change become unrealistically small.

"Our results show that the uncertainty estimates of greenhouse gas inventories depend on the calculation method and on how the input data for the model, such as weather and litterfall data, have been averaged," says Aleksi Lehtonen, researcher at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

Weather conditions strongly affect the litter production by vegetation and the decomposition of organic matter, in particular, and thus soil carbon stock changes. Upland soil carbon sink accounts for approximately 20% of the forest carbon sinks.

In the study published in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research, the role of year-to-year variation in weather conditions was examined by increasing the estimated uncertainty of litter input originating from tree needles, foliage and fine roots by a 5% random error. This seemed to have little effect on the total uncertainty of the litter input, but the uncertainty of the upland soil carbon sink estimate multiplied.

The reliability of carbon sink estimates is important

Reliable uncertainty estimates are needed for the prioritisation of research relating to the development of greenhouse gas inventories and for the assessment of the importance of emission sources and carbon sinks.

"Information provided by greenhouse gas inventories is used to support climate policy, for example. Therefore, it is important that, in addition to the size of the carbon sink, we also know what kind of uncertainties pertain to the figures reported," Lehtonen says.

The results of the study also stress the need for long-term monitoring of the ecosystem using permanent sample plots so as to be able to determine interannual variation and take it into account in calculations.

Finland's GHG inventory is one of the highest quality inventories in Europe

The member states of the European Union report their GHG emissions and removals to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the European Commission annually. Finland's GHG inventory is regarded as one of the highest quality inventories in the European Union.

In Finland, upland soil carbon stock changes are quantified using the Yasso07 soil model, in which variations in weather conditions can be taken into account. This model, combined with input data derived from forest inventory, is also used by many other countries in the EU.

The Natural Resources Institute Finland is responsible for reporting emissions and removals resulting from agriculture, land use and forestry.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Natural Resources Institute Finland. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Aleksi Lehtonen, Juha Heikkinen. Uncertainty of upland soil carbon sink estimate for Finland1. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 2015; 1 DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2015-0171

Cite This Page:

Natural Resources Institute Finland. "IPCC guidelines lead to an underestimation of uncertainty of forest carbon sink estimates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 November 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151126104046.htm>.
Natural Resources Institute Finland. (2015, November 26). IPCC guidelines lead to an underestimation of uncertainty of forest carbon sink estimates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 26, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151126104046.htm
Natural Resources Institute Finland. "IPCC guidelines lead to an underestimation of uncertainty of forest carbon sink estimates." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151126104046.htm (accessed May 26, 2017).

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