Quantifying the greenhouse gas (GHG) storage in forest ecosystems can support global change directly, from a biogeochemical perspective. However, accurately assessing the amount of GHG storage in forest ecosystems still faces challenges in China because of their wide distribution, varying types, and the changing definitions and areas of forests. We used land-use data with 5-year intervals during 1990–2015 to investigate the spatiotemporal variations of forest ecosystems in China. As three major greenhouse gases in forest ecosystems, the potential storage of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide can be calculated by a greenhouse gas value (GHGV) model. The results showed that the total area of forest ecosystems decreased by 15 × 105
ha during the study period. The area of forest ecosystems reached its highest level in 1995 and then declined. For various forest ecosystem types, shrubbery (Sh) increased by 0.82% but the broad-leaved forest, evergreen coniferous forest (ECF), and mixed forest (MF) all showed a downward trend. Correspondingly, the potential GHG storage of forest ecosystems declined from 156.97 Pg CO2
-eq) to 155.56 Pg CO2
-eq, a decrease of 1.41 Pg CO2
-eq. Compared with previous research results, the GHGV model proved to be an important supplementary method for estimating the potential storage of GHGs in forest ecosystems, especially in highly fragmented landscapes at a large scale. Our study indicated that the impact of forest ecosystems changes on potential GHG storage was serious during the study period. Our findings highlight that the GHGV model can be an effective and low-cost strategy to simulate the forest change and corresponding GHG storage. And considering the efficiency of the model and the historical analysis results of many periods, some of the results can also be used to inform the future afforestation programs and assess the expected GHG storage in China.
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