Spatial Patterns and Predictors of Forest Carbon Stocks in Western Mediterranean

Jordi Vayreda, Marc Gracia, Josep G. Canadell, Javier Retana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Mediterranean semi-arid forest ecosystems are especially sensitive to external forcing. An understanding of the relationship between forest carbon (C) stock, and environmental conditions and forest structure enable prediction of the impacts of climate change on C stocks and help to define management strategies that maximize the value of forests for C mitigation. Based on the national forest inventory of Spain (1997-2008 with 70,912 plots), we estimated the forest C stock and spatial variability in Peninsular Spain and, we determined the extent to which the observed patterns of stand C stock can be explained by structural and species richness, climate and disturbances. Spain has an average stand C stock of 45.1 Mg C/ha. Total C stock in living biomass is 621 Tg C (7.8% of the C stock of European forests). The statistical models show that structural richness, which is driven by past land use and life forest history including age, development stage, management activities, and disturbance regime, is the main predictor of stand tree C stock with larger C stocks in structurally richer stands. Richness of broadleaf species has a positive effect on both conifer and broadleaf forests, whereas richness of conifer species shows no significant or even a negative effect on C stock. Climate variables have mainly an indirect effect through structural richness but a smaller direct predictive ability when all predictors are considered. To achieve a greater standing C stock, our results suggest promoting high structural richness by managing for uneven-aged stands and favoring broadleaf over conifer species. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1258-1270
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2012


  • conifer and broadleaf forests
  • fire disturbance
  • forest management
  • national forest inventory
  • Peninsular Spain
  • structural richness
  • tree carbon stock
  • tree species richness
  • understory carbon stock
  • water availability


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