Combined effects of natural disturbances and management on forest carbon sequestration: the case of Vaia storm in Italy

Key message

Natural disturbances and management are key drivers for forest carbon balance. We modelled the impact of Vaia storm on forest sink at national scale in Italy. We demonstrate that after Vaia, carbon fluxes among pools and through harvested wood products from salvage logging limit the carbon losses. Our findings can improve the effectiveness of mitigation actions under disturbance scenarios.


Context Climate change increasingly modifies frequency and magnitude of extreme events, such as windstorms, with subsequent strong impacts not only on forest health and stability but also on the forest carbon balance.
Aims We aim to assess the combined impact of natural disturbances and forest management on the overall forest carbon accounting, including the mitigation potential from harvested wood products.
Methods We modelled the impact of Vaia storm on the evolution of forest carbon balance at national scale until 2030. We considered the effect of Vaia storm in combination with current management practices and salvage logging.
Results Our results suggest that the overall carbon sink decreased only by 4% due to Vaia, because of internal carbon transfers among forest pools (about 3.1 Mt C from living biomass to dead organic matter), and that the potential negative effects of salvage logging, removing about 1.2 Mt C from dead organic matter, can be counterbalanced by long-term carbon accumulation in harvested wood products.
Conclusion Based on our findings, there is an increasing need to robustly consider, through novel approaches (e.g. comprehensive and integrated modelling framework), the effects of natural disturbances in current accounting frameworks, with the final purpose to improve the effectiveness of mitigation strategies in the forestry sector.

Carbon accounting; Salvage logging; Harvested wood products; Carbon Budget Model; Forest mitigation; Forest adaptation

Pilli, R., Vizzarri, M. & Chirici, G. Combined effects of natural disturbances and management on forest carbon sequestration: the case of Vaia storm in Italy. Annals of Forest Science 78, 46 (2021).

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Data availability
The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are made publicly available at the European Commission, Joint Research Centre Data Catalogue:

Handling Editor
Shuqing Zhao

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