Norway spruce (Picea abies Karst. (L.)) in the boreal zone can be managed as even-aged or uneven-aged stands, or be grown with no management at all. Here, we investigated how these management options affect carbon dynamics, particularly the carbon stocks in the forest ecosystem (trees and soil), and albedo, and their combined effect on radiative forcing compared to a reference case, clear-cut site before planting seedlings. This allowed us to assess the potential of different management regimes to mitigate global warming. We ran long-term simulations under the current climate on a sub-mesic site in central Finland (62oN) using an eco-physiological forest-ecosystem model. Compared to even-aged management, no management (old-growth forest) increased ecosystem carbon stocks by 47 per cent and decreased albedo by 15 per cent, whereas uneven-aged management reduced ecosystem carbon stocks by 16 per cent and increased albedo by 10 per cent. Only the no management option resulted in a significant net cooling effect whereas for even-aged and uneven-aged management, the opposing effects of changes in albedo and carbon stocks largely cancelled each other with little remaining net effect. On the other hand, the latter one even made a small net warming contribution. Overall, maintaining higher ecosystem carbon stocks implied the larger cooling benefits. This was evident even though lower albedo enhanced radiation absorption, and thus warming. Increasing use of the no management option by forest owners may require proper incentives such as compensation for lost harvest incomes.

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