Return to ecosystems summary page

16. Main Taiga (conifer forest with a relatively open canopy, often Larix)

(Corresponds to Olson et al. main taiga, and to the 'southern variant of light taiga' of Russian authors)

References directly cited in these pages (does not at present include secondary citations)

Suggested summary values

Storage (tC/ha) Ecosystem component
31 tC/ha Dead standing trees, coarse woody litter, leaf litter and other debris
82 tC/ha Above and below-ground vegetation
219 tC/ha Soil organic carbon
335 tC/h Total carbon storage


Storage (tC/ha) Location Author(s)
30 tC/ha (1.) Coarse woody debris M. Harmon pers. com.
31.7 tC/ha (2.) Debris and litter Kolchugina & Vinson (1994)

(1.) Subjective impression from field experience.

(2.) A total of 31.7 tC/ha in debris (18.6 tC/ha in woody debris, 13.1 tC/ha in leaf litter) is suggested as representative for taiga of the former Soviet Union, by Kolchugina & Vinson (1994).

Conclusion; Although data are limited, a figure of 31 tC/ha is tentatively accepted for both leaf litter and woody debris combined. Note that woody debris will tend to be consumed when natural forest fires occur.



Storage (tC/ha) Location Author(s)
81.4 tC/ha (1.) Former Soviet Union, taiga Kolchugina & Vinson (1994)
87 tC/ha (2.) Main taiga Olson et al. (1983/1985)
120 tC/ha (3.) Taiga Rodin et al. (1975)
108 tC/ha (3.) Taiga Duvigneaud (S.)
17 tC/ha (4.) Canada. Boreal west. Apps et al. (1993)

(1.) This figure was given as representative for 'taiga' in the Former Soviet Union, based on a range of data and field knowledge. However, it probably includes a great deal of both the 'open taiga' and 'southern taiga' of this definition.

(2.) A data summary published by Olson et al. in 1985, and cited by Prentice et al. (1993), suggests figures of 47 (low) - 87 (med) - 117 (high) tC/ha for their 'main taiga' category (in Olson et al. 1983, the values are 40 - 80 - 110 tC/ha). Based on a range of literature sources published up to 1985. This value has been cited by Prentice et al. (1983).

(3.) Cited by Schlesinger. Early estimates based on IBP data. Probably too high due to biased site selection in the more southerly part of the taiga zone (therefore outside the main taiga zone and instead in the southern taiga zone).

(4.) A study for Forestry Canada on Canadian carbon in forest ecosystems (Apps et al. 1993) presented figures for the 'boreal west' forest zone of Canada (approximately corresponding to the the area of the 'main taiga' defined here. They suggest only around 15-20 t C/ha in biomass; obviously much lower than all previous studies. This large discrepancy is at least partly explicable in terms of them using sites disturbed by forestry activity, and is also dependent on their assumptions on a high frequency of lightning-induced burning events throughout this zone in the natural state.

Conclusions; For the moment, it seems quite hard to accept that the extremely low per-unit-area figures of Apps et al. are really representative of main taiga in its natural state. Certainly, the figure they suggest is met with some skepticism by all those I have spoken to (both North Americans e.g. S.P. Payette and Russians e.g. E. Zelikson) who have carried out fieldwork within the 'main taiga' zone. Generally, I am advised that it seems best for the time being to use a figure of around 80 tC/ha in vegetation which corresponds both to ecologists' impressions of the general vegetation structure, and to other sources of recent data. However, the figure may have to be revised downwards if Apps et al. are correct in assuming that the pre-European state was similar to the figure they give for the present-day.



Storage (tC/ha) Location Author(s)
219 tC/ha (1.) Main taiga Zinke et al. (1995)

(1.) Global data set of 145 samples. SE 62.7.

Conclusion; Based on the large dataset, this high carbon storage value of 219 tC/ha seems well-founded. Note that there might be some overlap with peatland soils of certain other authors, although Zinke et al. have gone to some effort to distinguish the boreal forest soils from peatland soils (based on thickness of the organic layer).