Carbon stock and change from woody biomass on Canada’s cropland between 1990 and 2000.

Huffman, E.C., Liu, J., McGovern, M., McConkey, B.G., and Martin, T.J. (2015). "Carbon stock and change from woody biomass on Canada’s cropland between 1990 and 2000.", Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 205, pp. 102-111. doi : 10.1016/j.agee.2014.10.009  Access to full text


Accurate estimation of greenhouse gas emissions and detailed monitoring of the carbon cycle are important for mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. On agricultural land, annual herbaceous vegetation is not considered a carbon sink, whereas perennial woody vegetation accumulates biomass over multiple years and does represent a carbon sink. This paper presents a study to estimate aboveground woody carbon stock in 1990 and its annual change from 1990 to 2000 on Canada’s cropland. The cropland was stratified into zones according to soils, climate and cropping systems, within which sample plots were randomly selected and paired aerial photographs corresponding to circa 1990 and 2000 were interpreted to detect changes in perennial woody vegetation such as trees, shrubs, orchards and vineyards. Woody biomass volumes lost as a result of land use change and gained as a result of planting and growth were estimated using species composition and growth rates typical of each zone, as obtained from published literature, forest reports and charts and forestry expert knowledge. Census of agriculture data was used to scale up the sample level results to zone and national levels. Results showed that on Canada’s cropland, the aboveground woody carbon stock in 1990 was 33.7 ± 8.8 Tg. Between 1990 and 2000, the area covered by woody vegetation was affected negatively by removals and positively through planting and natural regeneration, leading to a net reduction in area. There was an annual increase of about 78.3 Gg over all cropland in Canada, with a net decrease in some ecozones. Although this is a comparatively small increase with a large uncertainty, it indicates that changes in woody carbon on cropland in Canada over the 1990–2000 period were relatively insignificant. Further studies may be needed to refine the carbon estimates and reduce uncertainties.

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