Estimated forest carbon stocks

  • Image, Estimated forest carbon stocks.

    New Zealand’s indigenous and exotic forests absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. As forests grow, the carbon stored in them increases. These carbon stocks help offset greenhouse gas emissions from sources such as agriculture, energy production, and transport.

    We classified Estimated forest carbon stocks as a national indicator.

    Key findings

     Increasing trend in carbon stocks in regenerating indigenous forest and exotic forest

     Decreasing trend in carbon stocks in mature indigenous forest

    In 2012, an estimated 2,078 million tonnes of carbon were stored in New Zealand’s forests.

    • Between 1990 and 2012, our forest carbon stocks increased 168 million tonnes (8.8 percent).
    • The volume of carbon in our mature indigenous forests reduced from 1,711 million tonnes to 1,708 million tonnes between 1990 and 2012, due to deforestation.
    • Together, exotic and regenerating indigenous forests sequestered (or captured from the atmosphere and stored) an average 8.2 million tonnes of carbon each year between 1990 and 2012.

    Figure 1

    Figure 2

    Definition and methodology

    Forest carbon stocks are the mass of carbon stored in indigenous and exotic trees. This includes the carbon in living and dead leaves, branches, trunks, and roots. The change in forest carbon stocks is the rate at which carbon stored in forests changes from year to year.

    We estimate carbon stocks by combining measurements from a network of forest plots spread across New Zealand with land-use maps derived from satellite imagery.

    Data quality

    We classified Estimated forest carbon stocks as a national indicator.


    relevance-direct This national indicator is a direct measure of the ‘Ability of terrestrial ecosystems to function effectively’ topic.


    accuracy-high The accuracy of the data source is of high quality.

    See Data quality information for more detail.


    Published 21 October 2015

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