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First signs of carbon sink saturation in European forest biomass


European forests are seen as a clear example of vegetation rebound in the Northern Hemisphere; recovering in area and growing stock since the 1950s, after centuries of stock decline and deforestation. These regrowing forests have shown to be a persistent carbon sink, projected to continue for decades, however, there are early signs of saturation. Forest policies and management strategies need revision if we want to sustain the sink.

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Figure 1: Trends in increment, removals and sink strength for European forests.
Figure 2: Average yearly gross deforestation in 1990–2010.
Figure 3


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The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the institutions to which they are affiliated, nor the position of the funding agencies. We are grateful to Lauri Hetemaki of European Forest Institute and to Pep Canadell of the Global Carbon Project for comments on an early draft. We thank national data correspondents who contributed to international statistics and Mart-Jan Schelhaas for an update of Fig. 3. This work is related to and partly done in connection with the COST Action Echoes (FP0703) and the EU funded projects Motive, Trees4Future, Volante, and GHG-Europe (Project Numbers 226544, 284181, 265104 and 244122). Joy B-Burough carried out an English language check.

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Authors and Affiliations



G.N. did the Fig. 1 analyses, interpretations, and wrote large parts of the paper. M.L. and P.J.V. contributed to interpretation and writing of the manuscript. K.G. provided the deforestation data based on CLC in Fig. 2, and wrote parts of the section on deforestation. P.D. contributed to writing and provided data from UN-ECE/FAO sets. R.M. contributed to interpretations, writing, and provided data from UN-ECE/FAO sets. G.G. contributed to interpretations, writing, and provided data from UNFCCC datasets.

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Correspondence to Gert-Jan Nabuurs.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Nabuurs, GJ., Lindner, M., Verkerk, P. et al. First signs of carbon sink saturation in European forest biomass. Nature Clim Change 3, 792–796 (2013).

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