Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2020, Vol. 12 ›› Issue (3): 165-179.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2020.00165

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A meta-analysis of the impacts of forest logging on soil CO2 efflux

LongFei Chen1,YangZhou Xiang2,ZhiBin He1,Jun Du1,PengFei Lin1,Xi Zhu1   

  1. 1.Linze Inland River Basin Research Station, Chinese Ecosystem Research Network, Key Laboratory of Eco-hydrology of Inland River Basin, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China
    2.School of Geography and Resources, Guizhou Education University, Guiyang, Guizhou 550018, China
  • Received:2019-09-23 Accepted:2020-04-07 Online:2020-06-30 Published:2020-06-29


Soil CO2 efflux, the second largest flux in a forest carbon budget, plays an important role in global carbon cycling. Forest logging is expected to have large effects on soil CO2 efflux and carbon sequestration in forest ecosystems. However, a comprehensive understanding of soil CO2 efflux dynamics in response to forest logging remains elusive due to large variability in results obtained across individual studies. Here, we used a meta-analysis approach to synthesize the results of 77 individual field studies to determine the impacts of forest logging on soil CO2 efflux. Our results reveal that forest logging significantly stimulated soil CO2 efflux of the growing season by 5.02%. However, averaged across all studies, non-significant effect was detected following forest logging. The large variation among forest logging impacts was best explained by forest type, logging type, and time since logging. Soil CO2 efflux in coniferous forests exhibited a significant increase (4.38%) due to forest logging, while mixed and hardwood forests showed no significant change. Logging type also had a significant effect on soil CO2 efflux, with thinning increasing soil CO2 efflux by 12.05%, while clear-cutting decreasing soil CO2 efflux by 8.63%. The time since logging also had variable effects, with higher soil CO2 efflux for 2 years after logging, and lower for 3-6 years after logging; when exceeded 6 years, soil CO2 efflux increased. As significantly negative impacts of forest logging were detected on fine root biomass, the general positive effects on soil CO2 efflux can be explained by the accelerated decomposition of organic matter as a result of elevated soil temperature and organic substrate quality. Our results demonstrate that forest logging had potentially negative effects on carbon sequestration in forest ecosystems.

Key words: soil respiration, forest ecosystem, thinning, clear-cutting, time since logging

Figure 1

(a) weighted response ratio (RR++) of soil CO2 efflux to forest logging; (b) mean response ratios of Q10 to forest logging. Bars represent RR++ and 95% confidence intervals (Cl). If the CI did not overlap with zero, the response was considered significant (*P <0.05, **P <0.01, ***P <0.001). Vertical lines are drawn at RR = 0. The sample size for each variable is shown next to the bar"

Figure 2

Weighted response ratio (RR++) of soil CO2 efflux categorized according to logging type, time since logging, and thinning intensity. Bars represent RR++ and 95% confidence intervals (Cl). If the CI did not overlap with zero, the response was considered significant (*P <0.05, **P <0.01, ***P <0.001). Vertical lines are drawn at RR=0. The sample size for each variable is shown next to the bar"

Figure 3

Weighted response ratio (RR++) of soil temperature, soil moisture, soil organic carbon, total nitrogen, soil C:N ratios, soil microbial biomass carbon, soil pH, litter production, and fine root biomass to forest logging. Bars represent RR++ and 95% confidence intervals (Cl). If the CI did not overlap with zero, the response was considered significant (*P <0.05, **P <0.01, ***P <0.001). Vertical lines are drawn at RR=0. The sample size for each variable is shown next to the bar (ST, soil temperature; SM, soil moisture; SOC, soil organic carbon; TN, total nitrogen; C/N, soil C:N ratios; MBC, soil microbial biomass carbon;LP, litter production; FRB, fine root biomass)"

Table 1

Percentage changes of soil CO2 efflux, soil temperature, soil moisture, soil organic carbon, total nitrogen, soil C:N ratios, soil microbial biomass carbon, soil pH, litter production, and fine root biomass in response to forest logging"

VariablePercentage changeSample size (n)
Soil CO2 efflux2.18%±1.57%192
Soil temperature8.97%±0.60%136
Soil moisture6.25%±2.52%131
Soil organic carbon-0.58%±2.03%58
Total nitrogen1.42%±4.34%31
Soil C:N ratios-4.53%±1.18%30
Soil microbial biomass carbon-2.23%±3.42%22
Soil pH1.64%±0.63%26
Litter production-20.29%±3.46%29
Fine root biomass-23.44%±5.77%41

Figure 4

Relationships between the response ratio of soil CO2 efflux and the response ratio of soil temperature, soil moisture, soil C:N ratios, and fine root biomass"

Table S1

Summary of geographic location, forest type, logging type, time since logging, thinning intensity, number of observations, observation period, and response variables for studies included in the meta-analysis"

ReferenceGeographic locationForest type



Time since logging (year)Thinning intensityNumber of observationsObservation periodResponse variables
Tian et al., 200926°50'N, 109°45'EChinese fir plantationsThinning0, 2, 4, 6, 833%5Through the yearSR, ST, SM
Cheng et al., 201436°31'N, 112°01'EPine plantationThinning0, 120%, 30%, 40%6Growing seasonsSR, Q10, ST, SM, SOC, LP, FRB
Pang et al., 201331°37'N, 103°54'EPine plantationClear cutting2, 3, 4-6Through the yearSR, Q10, ST, SM
Pang et al., 201631°37'N, 103°54'EPine plantationClear cutting2, 3, 4-9Through the yearSR, Q10, ST, SM, SOC, MBC, Soil pH, LP, FRB
Tang et al., 2005



Ponderosa pine plantationThinning160%1Through the yearSR, ST, SM
Londo et al., 199930°39'N, 94°05'WBottomland hardwood forest


Clear cutting

2, 358%4Growing seasonsSR, Q10, ST, SM
Sullivan et al., 200835°05'N, 111°45'WPonderosa pine forestsThinning267%1Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, MBC, LP, FRB
Kaye and Hart, 1998Flagstaff of Arizona, USAPonderosa pine forestClear cutting3, 4-2Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH, LP, FRB
Boyle et al., 2005



Ponderosa pine forest


Clear cutting

863%4Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, SOC, MBC, TN, C/N, Soil pH
Grady and Hart, 200635°08'N, 111°39'WPonderosa pine forestThinning1640%1Growing seasonsSR, SM, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH, LP
Wang et al., 2013



Larch plantationThinning2711%1Growing seasonsSR, Q10, ST, MBC, LP
Nilsen and Strand, 200860°48'N, 10°29'ENorway spruce plantationThinning3441%, 55%2Growing seasonsSR, LP, FRB
Laporte et al., 200347°03'N, 87°24'WTolerant hardwood forest


Clear cutting

238%, 50%3Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM
Selig et al., 2008Virginia, USALoblolly pine plantationThinning1562%1Through the yearSR, ST, SM, SOC
Kurth et al., 201447°03'N, 87°24'WAspen-dominated forestClear cutting0, 1, 2, 3-12Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, SOC
Masyagina et al., 200642°44'N, 141°31'ELarch plantationThinning1626%1Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH, LP, FRB
Ma et al., 200436°58'N, 119°02'WOld-growth, mixed-conifer forestThinning2-2Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, SOC, TN, LP
Concilio et al., 200537°06'N, 19°12'WOld-growth, mixed-conifer forest


Clear cutting

3, 7, 8-3Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, LP
Akburak and Makineci, 2015



Oak forestThinning2, 350%2Through the yearSR, ST, SM, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH, LP, FRB
Mallik and Hu, 199749°10'N, 88°39'WBoreal mixedwood forestClear cutting2-1Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, SOC
Marra and Edmonds, 199647°49'N, 123°54'WOld-growth forests of the Olympic MountainsClear cutting3-1Through the yearSR
Fernandez et al., 199345°10'N, 68°40'W


mixed-conifer forest

Clear cutting4-1Growing seasonsSR, ST, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH
Ryu et al., 2009California, USAOld-growth, mixed-conifer forestThinning2-2Growing seasonsSR, ST, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH, LP, FRB
David et al., 199444°48'N, 85°48'WNorthern hardwood forestsClear cutting2-2Growing seasonsSR, Q10, ST
Olajuyigbe et al., 201252°57'N, 7°15'WSitka spruce forestThinning241.5%1Through the yearSR, Q10, ST, SM
Weber, 199046°00'N, 77°25'WImmature Aspen forestClear cutting1, 2, 3-6Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM
Gordon et al., 198765°45'N, 148°15'WAlaskan white spruce forestsClear cutting4, 5-2Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM
Kim, 200835°27'N, 127°38'ERed pine forestsThinning833%1Through the yearSR, ST, SM, SOC, Soil pH
Jr, 2005Missouri, USAMature oak-hickory forestClear cutting4-2Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM
Masyagina et al., 201042°44'N, 141°31'ELarch forestThinning1.526%1Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, SOC, TN, C/N, LP, FRB
Jonsson and Sigurdsson, 201063°51'N, 20°13'WPoplar plantationThinning150%, 80%2Growing seasonsSR, ST
Llovet et al., 2015Murcia, S.E. SpainAleppo pine forestsClear cutting17-1Through the yearSR
Ohashi et al., 199932°49'N, 130°44'EJapanese cedar forestThinning2, 3, 450%3Growing seasonsSR, Q10
Campbell et al., 2009Sierra Nevada, USAPonderosa pine plantationThinning4, 765%2Growing seasonsSR, LP, FRB
Striegl and Wickland, 199853°54'N, 104°41'WJack pine-lichen woodlandClear cutting2-1Growing seasonsSR, Q10
Lytle and Cronan, 199945°40'N, 69°10'WSpruce-fir forestClear cutting2-1Growing seasonsSR, ST, LP, FRB
Concilio et al., 200636°58'N, 119°02'WOld-growth, mixed-conifer forestThinning2, 3, 4-6Growing seasonsSR, ST, LP, FRB
Shabaga et al., 201544°55'N, 78°50'WNorthern mixed deciduous forestThinning1, 2, 324%, 19%6Growing seasonsSR, Q10, ST, SM, LP
Fernandez et al., 201243°09'N, 7°45'WTemperate radiata pine plantationsThinning2, 344%, 29%4Through the yearSR, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH, LP
Cheng et al., 201331°56'50"N, 121°52′43"ECoastal Metasequoia glyptostroboides forestThinning930%1Through the yearSR, SOC, LP
Dore et al., 201035°05′20"N, 111°45′43"EPonderosa pine forestsThinning270%1Growing seasonsSR, SOC, LP, FRB
Epron et al., 200448°40'N, 7°05'EBeech forestThinning2, 3, 426%3Through the yearSR, ST
Misson et al., 200538°53'42"N, 120°37'57"EYoung ponderosa pine plantationThinning2, 3, 460%3Through the yearSR
Son et al., 200437°33'N, 127°34'EJapanese Larch PlantationThinning410%, 20%, 40%3Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM
Liang et al., 201337°18'N, 116°15'EChinese arborvitae plantationThinning831%, 49%2Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, SOC, LP, FRB
Ulrike et al., 2010Labrador, CanadaBlack spruce forestClear cutting4-1Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, LP
Hagemann et al., 200849°07'N, 57°18'WBalsam fir forestClear cutting2-1Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH,
Kobziar et al., 2006Sierra Nevada, USAPine plantationThinning239%1Growing seasonsSR, Q10, ST, SM
Dore et al., 201438°54'N, 120°39'WMixed-conifer forestClear cutting2-1Through the yearSR, ST, SM, SOC, LP, FRB
Wang et al., 200742°24'N, 128°06'EKorean pine forestsClear cutting15-1Growing seasonsSR, Q10, ST, SM, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH, LP, FRB
Liang et al., 201541°44'N, 127°12'EPoplar-birch forestsThinning719%, 55%2Growing seasonsSR, Q10, SOC, C/N, Soil pH, LP, FRB
Wang, 201340°12'N, 115°54'EChinese pine plantationThinning237%, 44%, 55%3Growing seasonsSR, Q10, ST, SM, SOC, LP, FRB
Wang, 201544°27'N, 128°01'ELarch plantationThinning1715%, 40%2Growing seasonsSR, Q10, SOC, MBC, C/N , Soil pH, LP, FRB
Ling, 201236°36'N, 119°01'EChinese fir plantationThinning665%, 45%, 25%3Through the yearSR, Q10, ST, SM, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH, LP, FRB
Ding, 201522°41'N, 109°45'EChinese fir plantationThinning250%1Through the yearSR, Q10, ST, SM, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH, MBC, LP, FRB
Lei, 201530°59'N, 110°47'EPinus massoniana forestThinning215%, 70%2Through the yearSR, Q10, ST, SM, Soil pH, LP
Yang, 200526°28'N, 117°57'EChinese fir plantationClear cutting2-1Through the yearSR, Q10, ST, SM, LP
Xia, 201334°49'N, 106°43'ESharptooth oak forestClear cutting2-1Through the yearSR, Q10, ST, SM, LP
Kang et al., 201434°07'N, 105°42'ESharptooth oak forestClear cutting1.5-1Through the yearSR, Q10, ST, SM, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH
Ning et al., 201329°10'N, 118°03'ESubtropical evergreen broadleaf forestsClear cutting51-1Through the yearSR, Q10, ST, SM, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH, MBC
Neal et al., 200445°12'N, 68°44'EHowland forestThinning2, 330%2Growing seasonsSR
Rannik et al., 200261°51'N, 24°17'EScots pine forestClear cutting2-1Through the yearSR, ST, SM
Mattson and Smith, 199379°47'N, 39°37'ETypical mid-Appalachian forestsClear cutting--1Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, SOC, LP, FRB
Meng et al., 200846°53'N, 129°04'EConifer/ broad-leaved mixed forestsThinning213%, 20%, 29%, 39%, 52%, 60%, 71%7Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, SOC
Mallik and Hu, 199749°10'N, 88°39'WBoreal forestClear cutting1-1Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, SOC
Toland and Zak, 199444°48'N, 85°48'WNorthern hardwood forestsClear cutting0.5-2Growing seasonsSR, Q10
Liu et al., 201336°31'N, 112°15'WPinus tabulaeformis plantationThinning0.520%, 30%, 40%3Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM, FRB
Martin et al., 200948°57'N, 63°37'WBoreal forestsClear cutting1-1Growing seasonsSR
Ma et al., 201329°08'N, 117°55'ESubtropical forestClear cutting0-1Through the yearSR, SOC, TN, Soil pH
Lee and Mun, 2010Kongju, KoreaLarix leptolepisplantationClear cutting--1Growing seasonsSR, ST, SM
Tang et al., 201329°55'N, 113°32'EPhyllostachys edulis forestThinning023%1Through the yearSR, Q10, ST, SM, SOC, TN,
Guo et al., 201026°7′ N, 117°27'E

Chinese fir plantation,

evergreen broadleaved forest

Clear cutting1, 2-4Through the yearSR, Q10, ST, SM
Pumpanen et al., 200461°48′ N, 24°19'EScots pine forestsClear cutting1, 2-4Growing seasonsSR
Fang et al., 201632°22'N, 119°15'EPoplar PlantationClear cutting330%, 50%3Through the yearSR, ST
Hu et al., 201326°48'N, 117°59'EChinese fir plantationClear cutting15-1Through the yearSR, Q10, ST, SM, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH
Zuo et al., 201643°57'N, 127°44'EBroadleaf-Korean pine forestThinning0.5, 1.5, 2.515%, 25%, 50%9Growing seasonsSR, Q10, ST, SM
He et al., 201838°31'N, 103°15'ESemi-arid Pine plantation forestThinning13, 1420%, 40%4Growing seasonsSR, Q10, ST, SM, SOC, TN, C/N, Soil pH, LP, FRB

Figure S1

Frequency distributions of response ratios (RR) of soil CO2 efflux (a), soil temperature (b), soil moisture (c), soil organic carbon (d), total nitrogen (e), soil microbial biomass carbon (f), soil C:N ratios (g), soil pH (h), litter production (i), and fine root biomass (j)"

Table S2

Categorical factors tested as potential predictor variables in the meta-analysis."

Forest typeHardwood, coniferous, mixed
Logging typeThinning, clear cutting
Time since logging0-2, 2-6, >6 years
Thinning intensity<30%, 30%-50%, >50%
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