The northeastern forest region of China is an important component of total temperate and boreal forests in the northern hemisphere. But how carbon (C) pool size and distribution varies among tree, understory, forest floor and soil components, and across stand ages remains unclear. To address this knowledge gap, we selected three major temperate and two major boreal forest types in northeastern (NE) China. Within both forest zones, we focused on four stand age classes (young, mid-aged, mature and over-mature). Results showed that total C storage was greater in temperate than in boreal forests, and greater in older than in younger stands. Tree biomass C was the main C component, and its contribution to the total forest C storage increased with increasing stand age. It ranged from 27.7% in young to 62.8% in over-mature stands in boreal forests and from 26.5% in young to 72.8% in over-mature stands in temperate forests. Results from both forest zones thus confirm the large biomass C storage capacity of old-growth forests. Tree biomass C was influenced by forest zone, stand age, and forest type. Soil C contribution to total forest C storage ranged from 62.5% in young to 30.1% in over-mature stands in boreal and from 70.1% in young to 26.0% in over-mature in temperate forests. Thus soil C storage is a major C pool in forests of NE China. On the other hand, understory and forest floor C jointly contained less than 13% and <5%, in boreal and temperate forests respectively, and thus play a minor role in total forest C storage in NE China.
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