Earthquakes can produce significant tree mortality, and consequently affect regional carbon dynamics. Unfortunately, detailed studies quantifying the influence of earthquake on forest mortality are currently rare. The committed forest biomass carbon loss associated with the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China is assessed by a synthetic approach in this study that integrated field investigation, remote sensing analysis, empirical models and Monte Carlo simulation. The newly developed approach significantly improved the forest disturbance evaluation by quantitatively defining the earthquake impact boundary and detailed field survey to validate the mortality models. Based on our approach, a total biomass carbon of 10.9 Tg∙C was lost in Wenchuan earthquake, which offset 0.23% of the living biomass carbon stock in Chinese forests. Tree mortality was highly clustered at epicenter, and declined rapidly with distance away from the fault zone. It is suggested that earthquakes represent a significant driver to forest carbon dynamics, and the earthquake-induced biomass carbon loss should be included in estimating forest carbon budgets.
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