Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 371–376 | Cite as

Soil carbon dynamics in a Mediterranean forest during the Kyoto Protocol commitment periods

  • Tommaso ChitiEmail author
  • Giacomo Certini
  • Lucia Perugini
  • Giovanni Mastrolonardo
  • Dario Papale
  • Riccardo Valentini
Original Article


The purpose of the present work is to asses the possibility of detecting changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) at the end of the 5-years of the first Commitment Period (CP) of the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (1 January, 2008–31 December, 2012), by both direct measurement and the use of an opportunely evaluated SOC model, CENTURY. The investigated soil is young, developed since 28 years on virtually C-free spoil banks and under the influence of two managed forest stands, one a mix of English oak (Quercus robur L.) and Italian alder (Alnus cordata Loisel.) and the other pure English oak. The SOC stock of either stand was monitored since the time the stands were planted in 1981, and it was used together with other parameters for the model evaluation, while the future projections for the end of the first (2012) and second (2017) CP were made according to two extreme IPCC climatic scenarios: A1F1, the most dramatic, and B2, among the less impacting. Direct SOC measurements performed at the beginning and at the end of a time frame equivalent to a commitment period (2004–2008) had not shown significant variations in either stands. Compared to the 2008 SOC stock, in both stands the model shows variations at the end of the first CP from 0.7 to 1.8 Mg C ha−1 for the A1F1 scenario and from 0.3 to 1.7 Mg C ha−1 for the B2. These variations are within the standard deviations of the C stocks measured in 2008. On the contrary, at the end of the second CP, the modelled SOC increments range from 2.5 to 3.6 Mg C ha−1 (A1F1) or from 1.9 to 3.4 Mg C ha−1 (B2), indicating the possibility to detect the SOC changes by direct measurement, since the values well agree with the minimum detectable variation estimated for both sites in 3.3–4.5 Mg C ha−1. This work shows that SOC stock changes measured directly in the field can be minimal at the end of both CPs, and that CENTURY well simulates the SOC dynamics of the stands. The use of such a model, validated at long-term experimental sites, hence represents an effective tool for estimating future changes in SOC amounts in support of direct measurements when a short period of time, such as the CP, is considered.


Kyoto Protocol Forest management Net primary production (NPP) Soil organic carbon (SOC) CENTURY model 



This work benefited from the financial contribution of the “FISR Carboitaly project” funded by the Italian Ministry for University and Research. The first author gratefully acknowledges C Keough from Colorado State University for her support in setting up and running the CENTURY model. Thanks are due to P Arfaioli for her collaboration and for performing C measurements on soil samples, and to F Pelleri for providing the annual increments data use to calculate the NPP. A special acknowledgement to FC Ugolini for critically reviewing the manuscript and to W Cramer, for his comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tommaso Chiti
    • 1
    Email author
  • Giacomo Certini
    • 2
  • Lucia Perugini
    • 1
  • Giovanni Mastrolonardo
    • 2
  • Dario Papale
    • 1
  • Riccardo Valentini
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienza dell’Ambiente Forestale e delle sue Risorse (DISAFRI)Università della TusciaViterboItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienza delle Produzioni Vegetali, del Suolo e dell’Ambiente Agroforestale (DIPSA)Università di FirenzeFlorenceItaly

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