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Control of the Forest Carbon Balance


Development of Novel Technology for Instrumental Control of the Forest Ecosystems Сarbon Balance in Remote Areas

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-MIN/Monitoring and Instrumentation/Environment

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Rudneva V Ya

Leading Institute
Kurchatov Research Center, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • Siberian Branch of RAS / V.N. Sukachev Institute of Forest, Russia, Krasnoyarsk reg., Krasnoyarsk\nForest Ecology and Production Center, Russia, Moscow


  • Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany, Jena

Project summary

The necessity of monitoring of the carbon budget of forests, and Russian forests in particular, is caused by accomplishment of the clauses of the UN framework Convention (1992) on the climate changes which commits the participating countries to institute an inventory and recording systems of greenhouse gas emissions on their territories. The Convention has been in force in Russia since December’4 of 1994 and it is the Federal Law. Besides, the Kyoto Protocol which entered into force in February of 2005 envisages carbon dioxide emissions trading with the view of reducing the consumption of hydrocarbon types of fuel. The amount of emissions credits granted to a state depends on the drains of carbon dioxide located on its territory. Such situation is supposed to last out in the years to come (after the Kyoto Protocol is out of force in 2012).

In this connection, arrangement of monitoring of the carbon balance of national forests and acquisition of reliable instrumental estimations of CO2 absorption by these forests are the necessary provision for substantiation of political and economic decisions at regional, national and international levels. It is a new challenge for all the countries which was not tackled before. A necessary stage for its solution is organization and consistent implementation of direct ground-based measurements of the carbon balance of forest ecosystems. While being of great self-value, they may be used and are already in use as sources of reference and calibration data for remote sensing from satellites or aircrafts, and verification of various global and regional models of carbon transfer in biosphere.

Presently, one of the major sources of such data is Fluxnet ( It is a global network incorporating a number of regional networks (Ameriflux, EuroFlux, etc.) has more than 200 stations in different regions of the globe. Very few stations are located in Russia. Each of such stations has a specially equipped tower or a mast with sets of instrumentation for taking measurements of meteorological parameters and energy- and mass-exchange. Application of the eddy covariance method (ECM) to detect CO2 fluxes permits estimation of the carbon balance of a forest ecosystem.

Along with absolute measurements of CO2 fluxes, some of the FLUXNET stations take measurements of the 13C/12C isotope ratio of forest air and plant fragments. The fundamental exchange processes in the ecosystem, such as photosynthesis, photorespiration, respiration (autotrophic and heterotrophic), produce essential influence on the carbon isotope composition of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Taking measurements of the carbon dioxide isotope ratio and its concentration at several altitudes in different time of the day will make it possible to define sources or drains of CO2 immediately in a forest and to assess their averaged contribution into overall carbon balance.

However, an intrinsic drawback of measuring stations of nets of the Fluxnet type is their complexity and high cost of their deployment and maintenance. For example, the cost of arrangement of such station in a far-off region may attain several hundreds of thousand dollars. This drawback is of special significance for Russia where the capital forest resources are concentrated in Siberia. Vast territories of Siberia covered with taiga lack practically any road network, unpopulated and can be investigated only with expeditionary research methods. The suggested new approach, which is an alternative to the FLUXNET ideology, is based on experimental, field survey related to the analysis of carbon isotope composition with their subsequent generalization on the basis of forest mensuration data. So far, such data are accumulated practically for any territory, including outlying regions of Siberia. In order to use them for assessment of yearly carbon balance, procedures are to be developed which would provide the means of calculating carbon accumulation and emission for specific conditions of a particular forest ecosystem, and also to develop the tools for acquisition of initial data required for these procedures.

In this connection, the objective of the project is experimental development of procedures and instrumentation for ground-based monitoring of the carbon balance of forest ecosystems in regions with poorly developed or utterly lacking infrastructure. The distinctive feature of the suggested approach is use of carbon dioxide, 13CO2 artificially enriched in the 13C stable isotope in the capacity of a tracer for determination of CO2, both emitted from soil (soil respiration) and uptaken by plants.

In general outline, the technology under development presupposes the following set of operations: assemblage of light portable chambers (hotbeds) or gas-proof hoods to isolate air around the selected plants or their parts; air "top-dressing" of the plants with 13CO2; sampling of plants fragments during the observation period; measuring the isotope ratio in specimens under stationary conditions and determination of the relative growth of the biomass of different parts and tissues of phytocenosis components (from a treestand to the floor vegetation), and, finally, calculation of the carbon balance for the selected ecosystem as a whole with the use of allometric dependences and forest mensuration data.

This approach is to be implemented in the course of this Project with the aim of solving the following tasks:

  • development of a method, technical approaches and prototypes of devices needed for determination of a carbon flux from the underlining surface;
  • development of a method, technical approaches and prototypes of devices for measuring the carbon uptake by inpidual plants or their parts using isotopic 13C tracer;
  • development of a calculation procedure for determination of a carbon flux accumulated by a forest ecosystem (Net Primary Production - NPP) on the basis of forest assessment data, allometric dependences and results of isotope measurements by the sample of inpidual plants;
  • experimental substantiation of the approaches to be developed, including accuracy assessment on the basis of parallel measurements by the ECM method, and producing recommendations on the practical application of isotope measurements with the 13C tracer under conditions of Siberian taiga.

It is worth mentioning that experimental substantiation of the procedures, methods and instrumentation will be made during three summer periods of intensive complex measurements in Siberia on the experimental base of the SIF in the Krasnoyarsk region.

It should be stressed that successful accomplishment of the project will allow one to develop procedures which do not place special requirements to the education background and qualification of the staff engaged in sampling (plant fragments collecting) under field conditions, i.e. residents may be involved in this kind of job, workers of forest guard, gamekeepers, woodsmen being among them. They may combine sampling with their main activity which will reduce the cost of the carbon balance monitoring procedure and improve its representativeness with regard to the geographic coverage.

Thus, this Project makes a complex theoretical and experimental research which combines experience of three widely known scientific institutions of Russia: RRC Kurchatov Institute (Moscow), V. Sukachev Institute of Forest of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Krasnoyarsk) and the Centre for Ecology & Forest Productivity of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow). The major scope of activities will be performed by the team from the RRC Kurchatov Institute who used to participate in the development of nuclear weapon, and participants from SIF (Krasnoyarsk), who was connected with germ warfare questions. Their effort makes more than 60 % of the total scope of activities of all the participants. Thus, in the course of the Project accomplishment, their former experience of researches and practical skills bound to defence applications will be naturally redirected to the solution of peaceful climatic and ecological problems.


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