Initial forest age distribution may generate computational sinks or sources of carbon: A generic approach to test assumptions underlying the EU LULUCF forest reference levels

Carbon Balance Manag. 2021 May 4;16(1):13. doi: 10.1186/s13021-021-00177-4.


Background: The current EU LULUCF regulation calls for member state-specific Forest Reference Levels (FRLs) for benchmark in the accounting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals of managed forest land during the compliance period (2021-2030). According to the technical guidance on developing and reporting the FRLs, it could be actualized by projecting a ratio of harvested to total available biomass. We tested how the initial age distribution may affect the aforementioned ratio by simulating the continuation of forest management based on several descriptive shapes of forest age class distribution.

Results: Our simulations suggest that when the FRLs are prepared by employing the harvest ratio and forest management is assumed strictly age dynamics driven, the shape of the initial forest age class distribution gives rise to computational sinks or sources of carbon in managed forest land. Harvests projected according to the ratio corresponded those resulting from the age dynamics only in the case of uniform age distribution.

Conclusions: The result calls for a better consideration of variation in initial states between countries when determining the future LULUCF regulation. Our exercise demonstrates how generic simulations in a standardized modeling framework could help in ex-ante impact assessment of proposed changes to the LULUCF regulation.

Keywords: Biomass available for wood supply; Chapman‐richards function; European Forestry Dynamics Model (EFDM); Growth and yield model; Harvest fraction of management; Harvesting intensity; Land use; Land use change and forest; Modelling; Projection; Simulation.