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Biodiversity, carbon storage and dynamics of old northern forests

image of Biodiversity, carbon storage and dynamics of old northern forests

Forests play a key role in the global climate system. The Nordic countries have extensive forests with large and growing tree biomass that captures substantial amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Nordic forests are also important for biodiversity, with complex ecosystems providing habitats for about half of all known native species and threatened species in Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Forests also supply the basis for the economically important forest sector. In this report we review current knowledge on the role of old forests in the carbon cycle, their natural dynamics and importance for biodiversity. Based on evidence in the literature, it is clear that old forests continue to accumulate carbon for a long time, well past the normal logging age. The carbon uptake of old forests represents an important co-benefit for the well-documented value of old forests for biodiversity.

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Main determinants of forest biodiversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, Article 2) defines biodiversity as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.” Hence, biodiversity is a broad and complex concept whose attributes include composition, structure and function, at various organizational levels (Noss 1990). Depending on the biodiversity issues of interest, we may focus on specific biodiversity components representing relevant attributes and organizational levels. From a conservation perspective we may focus on threatened species or particular habitat types of conservation value. Being concerned with ecosystem functioning we may focus on biogeochemical cycles or food web linkages and dynamics.

English

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