Effects of Forest Management on Greenhouse Gases at Harwood Forest


Harwood towerUpland Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis L.) plantations are one of the major forest types in the UK, producing valuable timber products and also helping remove carbon from the atmosphere. Their management is therefore important in improving their greenhouse gas (GHG) balance. The project is aiming to quantify the carbon and GHG balance at different points in the forest management cycle by comparing a mature stand with a recently clearfelled area. The experimental site is located in Harwood Forest, Northumberland on a peaty-gley soil.

Research objectives

  • Understand the effects of harvesting on the whole forest C & GHG balance.
  • Use measurements of C & GHG components such as soil and stem, to enable modelling of the whole forest cycle balance for future climate scenarios.
  • Providing results and a platform for measurements of the effect of forest management to the NERC-funded ‘GREENHOUSE’ project.

Results so far

Harwood measuring instrumentsIn 2013 we erected a new 30m high tower to install instruments above the canopy in the mature stand. Basic measurements of carbon dioxide and methane uptake and loss and heat and water exchange started in August 2013. Since then we have extended the tower to 32m and improved the infrastructure and instruments. In June 2015 we erected a second 3m tower on the recently clearfell area, replicating all the measurements. We have also been measuring the carbon dioxide and GHG fluxes from chambers on the ground, to characterise substantial spatial and seasonal variation.


Harwood measuring instrumentsOur work at Harwood started in early 2013. The harvesting of the clearfell block was completed in March 2015. In July and August 2015 there will be an intensive field campaign with university partners from York and Edinburgh to measure the GHG balance of the recent clearfell. Work will continue until 2018.


Georgios Xenakis

Funders and partners

This project is part of the Managing Forest Carbon and GHG balance programme.

It is also a contribution to the NERC-funded GREENHOUSE project, a consortium led by University of Edinburgh, involving Universities of York and Aberdeen and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

Forestry Commission policy

The project supports FC policy by investigating how forests help us address climate change, and policies on sustainable forest management. This includes those addressing protecting forests and the ecosystem services they provide, such as carbon storage in the soils, carbon sequestration in growing trees, and wood provision for timber and biomass markets. The work addresses knowledge gaps about quantifying the carbon balance of forests and the effect of disturbance, and helps underpin the values used in the Woodland Carbon Code