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Do thinnings influence biomass and soil carbon stocks in Mediterranean maritime pinewoods?

Abstract

The effects of silvicultural treatments on carbon sequestration are poorly understood, particularly in areas like the Mediterranean where soil fertility is low and climatic conditions can be harsh. In order to improve our understanding of these effects, a long-term thinning experiment in a stand of Mediterranean maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Ait.) was studied to identify the effects of thinning on soil carbon (forest floor and mineral soil), above and belowground biomass and fine and coarse woody debris. The study site was a 59-year-old pinewood, where three thinnings of differing intensities were applied: unthinned (control), moderate thinning and heavy thinning. The three thinning interventions (for the managed plots) involved whole-tree harvesting. The results revealed no differences between the different thinning treatments as regards the total soil carbon pool (forest floor + mineral soil). However, differences were detected in the case of living aboveground biomass and total dead wood debris between unthinned and thinned plots; the former containing larger amounts of carbon. The total carbon present in the unthinned plots was 317 Mg ha−1; in the moderately thinned plots, it was 256 Mg ha−1 and in the case of heavily thinned plots, 234 Mg ha−1. Quantification of these carbon compartments can be used as an indicator of total carbon stocks under different forest management regimes and thus identify the most appropriate to mitigate the effects of global change. Our results indicated that thinning do not alter the total soil carbon content at medium term, suggesting the sustainability of these silvicultural treatments.

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Acknowledgments

We thank all those responsible for maintaining and inventorying the experimental plots and especially Raquel Onrubia and Alvaro Rubio who assisted in the field work and Salvador Sastre and Puri Pereira who handled the soil samples in laboratory. Adam Collins carried out the English revision. We also thank to the two anonymous reviewers for their comments in order to improve the understanding of this manuscript. This work was partially funded by research projects AT010-007 and AGL2011-29701-C02-00 of the Spanish Government.

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Correspondence to R. Ruiz-Peinado.

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Communicated by A. Weiskittel.

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Ruiz-Peinado, R., Bravo-Oviedo, A., López-Senespleda, E. et al. Do thinnings influence biomass and soil carbon stocks in Mediterranean maritime pinewoods?. Eur J Forest Res 132, 253–262 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10342-012-0672-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10342-012-0672-z

Keywords

  • Carbon stock
  • Forest floor
  • Mineral soil
  • Dead wood
  • Forest management
  • Pinus pinaster