The importance of dissolved organic carbon fluxes for the carbon balance of a temperate Scots pine forest

B. Gielen, J. Neirynck, S. Luyssaert, I.A. Janssens

    Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


    Efforts to increase our understanding of the terrestrial carbon balance have resulted in a dense global network of eddy covariance towers, which are able to measure the net ecosystem exchange of CO2, H2O and energy between ecosystems and the atmosphere. However, the typical set-up on an eddy covariance tower does not monitor lateral CO2- and carbon fluxes such as dissolved organic carbon (DOC). By ignoring DOC fluxes eddy covariance-based CO2 balances overestimate the carbon sink of ecosystems as part of the DOC drains into the inland waters and get respired outside the footprint of the eddy covariance tower. In this study we quantify 7 years (2000–2006) of DOC fluxes from a temperate Scots pine forest in Belgium and analyse its inter-annual variability. On average, 10gCm−2year−1 is leached from the pine forest as DOC. If the DOC fluxes are considered relative to the gross ecosystem carbon fluxes we see that DOC fluxes are small: 0.8±0.2% relative to gross primary productivity, 1.0±0.3% relative to ecosystem respiration, and (2.4±0.4%) relative to soil respiration. However, when compared to net fluxes such as net ecosystem productivity and net biome productivity the DOC flux is no longer negligible (11±7% and 17%, respectively), especially because the DOC losses constitute a systematic bias and not a random error. The inter-annual variability of the DOC fluxes followed that of annual water drainage. Hence, drainage drives DOC leaching at both short and long time scales. Finally, it is noted that part of the carbon that is leached from the ecosystem as DOC is respired or sequestered elsewhere, so the physical boundaries of accounting should always be reported together with the carbon budget.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
    PublisherElsevier Science B.V.
    Number of pages9
    ISBN (Print)0168-1923
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

    Publication series

    NameAgricultural and Forest Meteorology


    • Carbon
    • Carbon balance
    • Carbon flux
    • Carbon sink
    • Covariance
    • Ecosystem
    • Ecosystem exchange
    • Ecosystem production
    • Ecosystem respiration
    • Flux
    • Footprint
    • Inter-annual variability
    • Interannual variability
    • Lateral carbon fluxes
    • Net ecosystem exchange
    • Pinus sylvestris L.
    • Random error
    • Respiration
    • Soil respiration
    • Water balance
    • atmosphere
    • balance
    • co2
    • ecosystem production
    • eddy covariance
    • eddy-covariance
    • exchange
    • fluxes
    • forest
    • lateral carbon fluxes
    • net ecosystem productivity
    • scale


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