The positive carbon stocks–biodiversity relationship in forests: co-occurrence and drivers across five subclimates

Judit Lecina-Diaz, Albert Alvarez, Adrián Regos, Pierre Drapeau, Alain Paquette, Christian Messier, Javier Retana

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31 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 by the Ecological Society of America Carbon storage in forests and its ability to offset global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as biodiversity and its capacity to support ecosystem functions and services, are often considered separately in landscape planning. However, the potential synergies between them are currently poorly understood. Identifying the spatial patterns and factors driving their co-occurrence across different climatic zones is critical to more effectively conserve forest ecosystems at the regional level. Here, we integrated information of National Forest Inventories and Breeding Bird Atlases across Europe and North America (Spain and Quebec, respectively), covering five subclimates (steppe, dry Mediterranean, humid Mediterranean, boreal, and temperate). In particular, this study aimed to (1) determine the spatial patterns of both forest carbon stocks and biodiversity (bird richness, tree richness, and overall biodiversity) and the factors that influence them; (2) establish the relationships between forest carbon stocks and biodiversity; and (3) define and characterize the areas of high (hotspots) and low (coldspots) values of carbon and biodiversity, and ultimately quantify their spatial overlap. Our results show that the factors affecting carbon and biodiversity vary between regions and subclimates. The highest values of carbon and biodiversity were found in northern Spain (humid Mediterranean subclimate) and southern Quebec (temperate subclimate) where there was more carbon as climate conditions were less limiting. High density and structural diversity simultaneously favored carbon stocks, tree, and overall biodiversity, especially in isolated and mountainous areas, often associated with steeper slopes and low accessibility. In addition, the relationship between carbon stocks and biodiversity was positive in both regions and all subclimates, being stronger where climate is a limiting factor for forest growth. The spatial overlap between hotspots of carbon and biodiversity provides an excellent opportunity for landscape planning to maintain carbon stocks and conserve biodiversity. The variables positively affecting carbon and biodiversity were also driving the hotspots of both carbon and biodiversity, emphasizing the viability of “win-win” solutions. Our results highlight the need to jointly determine the spatial patterns of ecosystem services and biodiversity for an effective and sustainable planning of forest landscapes that simultaneously support conservation and mitigate climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1481-1493
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018


  • Mediterranean climate
  • biodiversity
  • bird richness
  • boreal subclimate
  • carbon storage
  • conservation priorities
  • hotspots and coldspots distribution
  • landscape planning
  • steppe subclimate
  • synergies and trade-offs
  • temperate subclimate
  • tree richness


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