Ecophysiological controls on the carbon balances of three southern boreal forests

T. J. Griffis, T. A. Black, K. Morgenstern, A. G. Barr, Z. Nesic, G. B. Drewitt, D. Gaumont-Guay, J. H. McCaughey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

228 Scopus citations


Continuous measurements of carbon exchange using the eddy covariance (EC) technique were made at three boreal forest mature sites including Southern Old Aspen (SOA), Southern Old Black Spruce (SOBS) and Southern Old Jack Pine (SOJP) in 2000. Climatic conditions were slightly warmer than normal with precipitation exceeding evapotranspiration at each site. Annual ecosystem respiration (R) derived from daytime analyses of EC data was 1141, 815 and 521 g C m-2 per year and was consistently lower than nighttime EC estimates of 1193, 897 and 578 g C m-2 per year for SOA, SOBS and SOJP, respectively. The differences, however, were not statistically significant given the large uncertainty associated with each analytical technique. The uncertainty in annual net ecosystem productivity (NEP) was assessed by randomly simulating missing data and gap filling using simple biophysical algorithms. The uncertainty analysis supports the finding that each site was a net sink, and that differences in NEP were only significant between SOA and SOBS. The annual NEP and uncertainty for SOA, SOBS and SOJP was 122 (64-142), 35 (18-53) and 78 (61-91) g C m-2 per year, respectively. These relatively old growth forests represent a weak to moderate carbon sink. Despite having the shortest growing period, carbon sequestration was greatest at SOA because of its relatively large photosynthetic capacity (Amax). At the evergreen sites, Amax was marginally larger at SOBS; however, annual carbon sequestration was smaller as a result of greater R. The evergreen sites exhibited a pronounced mid-season reduction in NEP, which was attributed to a large increase in R while Amax had not reached its full capacity. Non-growing season R resulted in a carbon loss of 285, 120 and 64 g C m-2 and accounted for 70, 80 and 46% of the summertime NEP at SOA, SOBS and SOJP, respectively. Six years of EC data at SOA indicate that carbon sequestration at boreal aspen sites may benefit from warmer climatic conditions because R is relatively conservative and photosynthesis increases in response to a longer growing period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-71
Number of pages19
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 30 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this research has been provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in the form of a 2-year Postdoctoral Fellowship (TJG) and an Operating Grant (TAB). Additional support has been provided by the Meteorological Service of Canada through a Contribution Agreement to the University of British Columbia.


  • Aspen
  • Black spruce
  • Boreal forests
  • Carbon balance
  • Climate change
  • Ecophysiology
  • Eddy covariance
  • Jack pine
  • Net ecosystem productivity
  • Photosynthesis
  • Respiration


Dive into the research topics of 'Ecophysiological controls on the carbon balances of three southern boreal forests'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this