Woodlands in England could store almost twice as much carbon as previously estimated

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UK forests can store almost twice as much carbon as previous calculations have shown, according to a new study involving UCL researchers; this, with implications for our understanding of carbon stocks and humanity’s response to climate change.

For the study published today in the journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence, an international team of scientists used a new 3D scanning technique and analysis to assess the amount of above-ground biomass (AGB) used to derive carbon storage from 815 trees in a UK woodland area. The team found their results to be 77% higher than previous estimates (410 tons ha).-one biomass versus 232 t ha-one).

The authors say that while the potential underestimation of forest carbon stocks has both positive and negative consequences for climate policy, their work may have implications for the role of forests in tackling climate change.

Professor Mat Disney (UCL Geography and National Earth Observatory), co-author of the study, said: “Forests are currently acting as a carbon sink in the UK. means we’ve lost almost twice the carbon sink capacity we potentially thought of.

“This has serious implications for our understanding of the benefits of protecting trees in terms of climate mitigation and the broader objectives of deforestation and reforestation.”

The study was a collaboration between researchers from UCL, the UK’s National Center for Earth Observation (NCEO), the Universities of Ghent, Oxford and Tampere, the National Physical Laboratory and Sylvera. To create their findings, the team performed 3D terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) analysis on a 1.4-hectare section of Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire. TLS is a remote sensing technique in which millions of laser pulses are emitted to capture the environment and structures of trees in a forest area in 3D.

They then used statistical modeling to calculate the mass and volume of the trees and then the carbon storage capacity of the area and compared this with the findings of previous models.

The authors say their study questions the precision of forest carbon storage estimates across the UK, particularly for the largest and most carbon-heavy trees, which are currently based on widely used models that estimate tree mass from trunk diameter. Previous studies are likely to greatly underestimate forest biomass in the UK.

Professor Kim Calders (University of Ghent), lead author of the study, said: “Currently, most estimates of forest carbon stocks are based on simple allometric models that assume that a tree’s size and mass increase at a constant rate. Our findings are problematic as reliance on these models is not representative of UK forests. ”

“While the models work well for trees less than about 50 cm in diameter, which are fairly uniform in size and volume, this is not what we see for larger, heavier trees. These are much more complex when it comes to structure – and these are location and species.” There are huge differences between them.”

“It is vital that we be able to reduce uncertainty in forest carbon estimates, especially given that land use and forest protection and restoration account for a quarter of countries’ current commitments to Paris Agreement goals.”

Currently, the UK’s biomass stock reporting to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization is based on these allometric models, which the authors say most likely lead to substantial underreporting.

Study co-author Yadvinder Malhi (University of Oxford) added: “Wytham Woods is owned by the University of Oxford and has witnessed over 70 years of detailed scientific research. Implications for our understanding of forests and their role in tackling climate change that apply to the UK and beyond.”

Related researches are also published in the journal. Zenodo.

More information:
Mat Disney et al., Laser scanning reveals potential underestimation of biomass carbon in temperate forests, Ecological Solutions and Evidence (2022). DOI: 10.1002/2688-8319.12197

Kim Calders et al., Terrestrial laser scanning data Wytham Woods: individual trees and quantitative structure models (QSMs), Zenodo (2022). DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7307956

Provided by University College London

Quotation: UK woodlands have nearly twice as much carbon dioxide as previously estimated (2022, 20 December) retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2022-12-uk-woodlands-carbon-previously.html on 20 December 2022 can store.

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