Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Journal articles

Tamm Review: Influence of forest management activities on soil organic carbon stocks: A knowledge synthesis

Abstract : Almost half of the total organic carbon (C) in terrestrial ecosystems is stored in forest soils. By altering rates of input or release of C from soils, forest management activities can influence soil C stocks in forests. In this review, we synthesize current evidence regarding the influences of 13 common forest management practices on forest soil C stocks. Afforestation of former croplands generally increases soil C stocks, whereas on former grasslands and peatlands, soil C stocks are unchanged or even reduced following afforestation. The conversion of primary forests to secondary forests generally reduces soil C stocks, particularly if the land is converted to an agricultural land-use prior to reforestation. Harvesting, particularly clear-cut harvesting, generally results in a reduction in soil C stocks, particularly in the forest floor and upper mineral soil. Removal of residues by harvesting whole-trees and stumps negatively affects soil C stocks. Soil disturbance from site preparation decreases soil C stocks, particularly in the organic top soil, however improved growth of tree seedlings may outweigh soil C losses over a rotation. Nitrogen (N) addition has an overall positive effect on soil C stocks across a wide range of forest ecosystems. Likewise, higher stocks and faster accumulation of soil C occur under tree species with N-fixing associates. Stocks and accumulation rates of soil C also differ under different tree species, with coniferous species accumulating more C in the forest floor and broadleaved species tending to store more C in the mineral soil. There is some evidence that increased tree species diversity could positively affect soil C stocks in temperate and subtropical forests, but tree species identity, particularly N-fixing species, seems to have a stronger impact on soil C stocks than tree species diversity. Management of stand density and thinning have small effects on forest soil C stocks. In forests with high populations of ungulate herbivores, reduction in herbivory levels can increase soil C stocks. Removal of plant biomass for fodder and fuel is related to a reduction in the soil C stocks. Fire management practices such as prescribed burning reduce soil C stocks, but less so than wildfires which are more intense. For each practice, we identify existing gaps in knowledge and suggest research to address the gaps.
Complete list of metadata

Cited literature [491 references]  Display  Hide  Download
Contributor : Alain Mollier <>
Submitted on : Friday, September 4, 2020 - 8:11:14 AM
Last modification on : Friday, January 29, 2021 - 11:30:03 AM


Publication funded by an institution


Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0 International License



Mathias Mayer, Cindy Prescott, Wafa Abaker, Laurent Augusto, Lauric Cecillon, et al.. Tamm Review: Influence of forest management activities on soil organic carbon stocks: A knowledge synthesis. Forest Ecology and Management, Elsevier, 2020, 466, pp.118127. ⟨10.1016/j.foreco.2020.118127⟩. ⟨hal-02613724⟩



Record views


Files downloads