Evidence for large carbon sink and long residence time in semiarid forests based on 15 year flux and inventory records

Rafat Qubaja, José M. Grünzweig, Eyal Rotenberg, Dan Yakir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The rate of change in atmospheric CO2 is significantly affected by the terrestrial carbon sink, but the size and spatial distribution of this sink, and the extent to which it can be enhanced to mitigate climate change are highly uncertain. We combined carbon stock (CS) and eddy covariance (EC) flux measurements that were collected over a period of 15 years (2001–2016) in a 55 year old 30 km2 pine forest growing at the semiarid timberline (with no irrigating or fertilization). The objective was to constrain estimates of the carbon (C) storage potential in forest plantations in such semiarid lands, which cover ~18% of the global land area. The forest accumulated 145–160 g C m−2 year−1 over the study period based on the EC and CS approaches, with a mean value of 152.5 ± 30.1 g C m−2 year−1 indicating 20% uncertainty in carbon uptake estimates. Current total stocks are estimated at 7,943 ± 323 g C/m2 and 372 g N/m2. Carbon accumulated mostly in the soil (~71% and 29% for soil and standing biomass carbon, respectively) with long soil carbon turnover time (59 years). Regardless of unexpected disturbances beyond those already observed at the study site, the results support a considerable carbon sink potential in semiarid soils and forest plantations, and imply that afforestation of even 10% of semiarid land area under conditions similar to that of the study site, could sequester ~0.4 Pg C/year over several decades.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1626-1637
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • carbon sequestration
  • carbon sink
  • carbon turnover time
  • ecosystem productivity
  • semiarid
  • soil carbon


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