Carbon Pools and Measurement Frequency for Carbon Inventory

Global carbon cycle involves exchange of CO2 between the atmosphere and the biosphere, apart from oceans. Plants fix CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis to produce organic matter, which is stored in above- and below-ground parts. Bulk of the biomass in above- and below-ground plant parts is eventually transferred to the dead organic matter pool or it is oxidized or burnt. Dead organic matter, which consists of deadwood (standing as well as fallen) and litter, is either decomposed or oxidized, or stored for longer periods above or below the ground as detritus. CO2 fixed by plants ends up in soil as organic matter or in finer forms as humus through the process of decomposition. Thus, CO2 removed from the atmosphere is stored as dead and living biomass or soil carbon in the biosphere.

A carbon inventory, for carbon mitigation as well as forest conservation and land development programmes and for greenhouse gas inventory programmes and projects, requires estimation of stocks of carbon pools in biomass and in soil for a given period. There are five carbon pools, and measurement, monitoring and projection of changes in stocks of carbon in all the five carbon pools may be desirable. However, the cost of monitoring all the carbon pools is likely to be high. Further, stocks of some of the carbon pools may not change or change only marginally during the period selected for monitoring or projection. Therefore, the most cost-effective way of carbon inventory is to identify and monitor the key carbon pools that are likely to be impacted by the project activities or as a result of human intervention involving land-use change, conservation practices, planting trees or grasses, improved management practices, harvesting rates, cultural operations and so on.

IPCC (2003, 2006) has defined five carbon pools for greenhouse gas inventory. Even the Marrakech Accord of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has included five carbon pools, for estimating the impacts of land-use change and forestry activities:

• Living biomass

° Above-ground

° Deadwood

• Soil organic carbon

Harvested wood products (HWP) could also be considered as a carbon pool, and some countries estimate and report stocks of HWP in their national GHG inventory. When the carbon "Stock-Difference" method is adopted, HWP pool is covered under the biomass carbon pools. Accordingly, this handbook focuses on the five carbon pools and presents their features, their importance for different land-use systems, programmes and projects and the frequency of monitoring.

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