A large amount of carbon is stored in global forests. However, the fraction of carbon stored as plant biomass versus soil organic carbon (SOC) varies among forest types, and potential changes over the 21st century are uncertain. Here, we used extensive data derived from inventories and remote sensing and Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) models to examine the current and 21st century dynamics in the proportion of biomass and SOC across global forests. We found that precipitation, elevation, soil, and wildfire were the primary controls of these differences in carbon pools. Under the SSP5–8.5 climate scenario, CMIP6 models project that the ratio of biomass to ecosystem carbon in global forests will increase across the 21st century, with the largest increases in boreal forests (95 ± 37%) compared to moist tropical forests (16 ± 15%). Changes in forest carbon pools resulting in greater biomass fraction will affect disturbance, and ecosystem carbon and energy balances, all of which interact with the climate system.