How does forestry affect the soil carbon stock?

In Swedish forests, more carbon is stored in the soil than in living trees. Therefore, forest soil plays an important role in sequestering carbon and counteracting climate change.

Does forestry have a negative effect on the forest soil carbon stock? This issue is addressed in the report “Forestry makes the soil grow”. The report is based on leading forest soil science, official national statistics and national reports to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Summary of the report:

  1. Responsible and active forest management, as practiced in Sweden, leads to major removals of atmospheric carbon, of which a significant proportion is safely stored in forest soils.
  2. At the landscape scale, there is a persistent increase of carbon storage in forests, both in living biomass and in forest soils.
  3. At the local, individual stand level, wood harvesting through clear-cutting and preparing forest sites for planting does not cause additional leakage of carbon. Instead, lower tree growth during the regeneration phase explains temporary net carbon losses in young stands.
  4. Long-term forest management in Sweden builds soil carbon storage, mainly through increased forest growth and fire suppression.

The report was authored by Dr. Peter Holmgren – earlier Director for FAO’s global work on climate change, currently senior advisor on sustainable development.