, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 284–291 | Cite as

Accounting Carbon Storage in Decaying Root Systems of Harvested Forests

  • G. Geoff Wang
  • David H. Van Lear
  • Huifeng Hu
  • Peter R. Kapeluck


Decaying root systems of harvested trees can be a significant component of belowground carbon storage, especially in intensively managed forests where harvest occurs repeatedly in relatively short rotations. Based on destructive sampling of root systems of harvested loblolly pine trees, we estimated that root systems contained about 32% (17.2 Mg ha−1) at the time of harvest, and about 13% (6.1 Mg ha−1) of the soil organic carbon 10 years later. Based on the published roundwood output data, we estimated belowground biomass at the time of harvest for loblolly-shortleaf pine forests harvested between 1995 and 2005 in South Carolina. We then calculated C that remained in the decomposing root systems in 2005 using the decay function developed for loblolly pine. Our calculations indicate that the amount of C stored in decaying roots of loblolly-shortleaf pine forests harvested between 1995 and 2005 in South Carolina was 7.1 Tg. Using a simple extrapolation method, we estimated 331.8 Tg C stored in the decomposing roots due to timber harvest from 1995 to 2005 in the conterminous USA. To fully account for the C stored in the decomposing roots of the US forests, future studies need (1) to quantify decay rates of coarse roots for major tree species in different regions, and (2) to develop a methodology that can determine C stock in decomposing roots resulting from natural mortality.


Carbon cycle Carbon pool Loblolly pine Root biomass Piedmont South Carolina 



This paper is Technical Contribution No. 5928 of the Clemson University Experimental Station. We thank Ben Knapp for his editorial suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Geoff Wang
    • 1
  • David H. Van Lear
    • 1
  • Huifeng Hu
    • 1
  • Peter R. Kapeluck
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Agricultural, Forest and Environmental ScienceClemson UniversityClemsonUSA

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