News March 2024

Strict forest reserves showed largest aboveground carbon capture among forests in Flanders

Net greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union must be at least 55% lower by 2030. To achieve this ambitious goal, we have to reduce emission and increase removal of greenhouse gases. Europe aims to remove net at least 310 million tonnes CO2 equivalent from the atmosphere by 2030, by capturing carbon in soil and forests.

Forests naturally take up CO2 from the atmosphere and capture carbon in biomass and soil. When trees die or are harvested, some carbon leaves the forest again. Hence, forest management can affect carbon capture. Do naturally developing forests capture more carbon?

We studied the potential for aboveground carbon capture in Flemish forests, in living trees and dead wood. We calculated carbon stocks and annual carbon uptake using data from the first and second Flemish Forest Inventory (by the Nature and Forest Agency) and the first and second monitoring in Flemish forest reserves (by INBO).

In general, the amount of aboveground carbon in Flemish forests increased, with the largest increase in forest reserves and on fertile soils. Forests set aside from management can build up large carbon stocks and continue to capture carbon for decades.

Margot Vanhellemont, Anja Leyman, Leen Govaere (ANB), Luc De Keersmaeker, Kris Vandekerkhove

Read more: Vanhellemont M, Leyman A, Govaere L, De Keersmaeker L, Vandekerkhove K (2024) Site-specific additionality in aboveground carbon sequestration in set-aside forests in Flanders (northern Belgium). Frontiers in Forests and Global Change 7: 1236203,

Image above: Monitoring with laser and Fieldmap software in the forest reserves (photo: Kris Vandekerkhove)


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