Indicator Climate

Carbon balance in forests

When trees grow, they store carbon in their biomass. In this way, they are able to absorb large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere. Conversely, when trees die or are harvested, their decomposition or burning releases the carbon stored in their biomass. As a result, sustainable forest management that also allows for sustainable carbon storage can help protect the climate. The use of durable wood products (e.g. construction timber, furniture) is another (temporary) method of storing carbon.

Assessment of the state
good good
Assessment of the trend
impossible to evaluate impossible to evaluate
Reference value 2020: -1.5 Reference value 2019: -1.5 Reference value 2018: -1.5 Reference value 2017: -1.5 Reference value 2016: -1.5 Reference value 2015: -1.5 Reference value 2014: -1.5 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2018: -0.0783400064333375 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2018: -1.20002571926767 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2018: 0.148539428896667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2017: -0.0239742950333273 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2017: -2.727283948755 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2017: 0.135590857459 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2016: -0.0572662996766655 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2016: -2.863080612091 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2016: 0.109926070886667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2015: -0.100135938943342 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2015: -2.87350916019267 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2015: 0.11706233781 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2014: -0.115710144660005 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2014: -1.319487639195 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2014: 0.129278990298 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2013: 0.0568991123066581 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2013: -2.79659265687533 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2013: 0.146270941745033 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2012: -0.134425330123335 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2012: -2.82017049663667 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2012: 0.144983157018 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2011: -0.355530201033334 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2011: -1.39237247092633 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2011: 0.143739595722333 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2010: -0.457494651643333 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2010: -2.74099278452367 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2010: 0.141413937251467 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2009: -0.422924877943327 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2009: -2.82077290496367 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2009: 0.135167783026333 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2008: -0.433237341276661 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2008: -1.869661853115 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2008: 0.129094521190667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2007: -0.365814508290008 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2007: -0.608626326264001 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2007: 0.133602162066667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2006: -0.543134534726666 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2006: -1.116126832221 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2006: 0.136214987526333 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2005: -0.72786692421667 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2005: -2.700718533373 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2005: 0.133584476739 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2004: -0.58162766779333 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2004: -2.62345197206366 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2004: 0.131640062126667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2003: -0.359025866613335 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2003: -3.02636918512867 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2003: 0.129426604017 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2002: -0.301018989076676 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2002: -3.035534234162 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2002: 0.127158110575333 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2001: -0.427085229816662 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2001: -1.59624356190233 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2001: 0.124907647631667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2000: -0.722956213209994 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 2000: 4.93470884737867 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 2000: 0.122865259528667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1999: -0.386498686273333 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1999: -3.141237422258 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1999: 0.121853147766333 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1998: -0.308916830200003 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1998: -3.15117600960533 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1998: 0.119377645987 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1997: -0.256655394709993 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1997: -4.17360777506766 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1997: 0.110906376700333 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1996: -0.302062200440003 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1996: -5.96484677168233 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1996: 0.106486833711667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1995: -0.487059756113331 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1995: -4.10986546445633 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1995: 0.105666974515667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1994: -0.358589320833332 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1994: -3.33939647102567 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1994: 0.0949360555916667 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1993: -0.476961249489989 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1993: -4.53385424450233 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1993: 0.0846487608363333 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1992: -0.556402500646662 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1992: -4.119850149483 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1992: 0.082849184872 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1991: -0.76396224538333 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1991: -4.54737060439133 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1991: 0.0835063571466666 Carbon balance associated with durable wood products* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1990: -1.16882481147667 Carbon balance associated with forest management* (= KP Art. 3.4) 1990: -1.15893931548233 Carbon balance associated with afforestation/deforestation*  (= KP Art. 3.3) 1990: 0.0833808993393333
*Negative values: carbon sinks; positive values: emissions (sources).

Data for the graph: Excel
Source: Federal Office for the Environment
Comment

By ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, Switzerland agreed to record variations in forest carbon stocks generated by afforestation and deforestation (Art. 3.3) as well as forest management and wood use (Art. 3.4).

The areas of afforestation and deforestation are relatively small in comparison with the total forest area. Because growth in biomass through afforestation occurs slowly, whereas with deforestation, all timber is removed at once, the emissions generated by deforestation are significantly higher than sequestration as a result of afforestation. Consequently, under the terms of Article 3.3 there is a carbon source every year.

The carbon balance in forests is made up of CO2 absorption as a result of tree growth, changes in the CO2 stored in mulch, soil and deadwood, minus the losses resulting from forest management (harvesting) and natural outflows. Changes in carbon stocks in domestic wood products (harvested wood products, HWP) also have to be recorded. Except in years with severe storms, with increased losses of living biomass in the forest due to forced usage, and greater tree mortality in subsequent years (e.g. after ‘Lothar’ in December 1999), forest management (Art. 3.4) results in a net carbon sink in living and dead biomass. This forest sink is nonetheless limited, as the rotation periods (using trees at a later stage) cannot be extended at will if the forest is to be managed sustainably. Carbon stocks in durable wood products under Article 3.4 have also been classified as a carbon sink since 1990, but they have tended to shrink in recent years.

For accounting under the Kyoto Protocol, this carbon balance from forest management and wood products is compared with a reference value at the end of the commitment period. Current estimates suggest that the sequestration performance credited will be in the range of a few hundred thousand tonnes of CO2-equivalents.

If more wood is harvested in the coming years, as foreseen by the Swiss Forest Policy, this would generally lower the forest’s carbon sink capacity in the future. However, a well-conceived cascade strategy for lumber use could absorb this effect and enable stored carbon to continue to protect the climate. Since large storm events and pest infestations have a decisive impact on the quantity of the carbon stored, the trend is difficult to evaluate.

International comparison

Comparability with the other Parties to the Kyoto Protocol pertains.

Method

The greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon balance of forest management are published in the national Greenhouse Gas Inventory in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol. The methods used are consistent with IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) guidelines.

To establish changes in carbon stocks – expressed as CO2-equivalents – the levels of carbon released by deforestation, and those absorbed by afforestation, are taken into account in addition to the carbon balance of forest management, including harvested wood products. For the Kyoto Protocol calculation at the end of the commitment period, forest management is compared with a reference value, the Forest Management Reference Level. The value may change until the final calculation is done. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is by far the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, while methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) from forest fires and drained wetlands contribute to a lesser extent.

 
Last updated on: 15.04.2020

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