Influence of tree species composition, thinning intensity and climate change on carbon sequestration in Mediterranean mountain forests: a case study using the CO2Fix model


Prediction of future forest carbon (C) stocks as influenced by forest management and climate is a crucial issue in the search for strategies to mitigate and adapt to global change. It is hard to quantify the long-term effect of specific forest practices on C stocks due to the high number of processes affected by forest management. This work aims to quantify how forest management impacts C stocks in Mediterranean mountain forests based on 25 combinations of site index, tree species composition and thinning intensity in three different climate scenarios using the CO2Fix v.3.2 model Masera et al. (Ecol Modell 164:177–199, 2003). The study area is an ecotonal zone located in Central Spain, and the tree species are Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) and Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica Willd.). Our results show a strong effect of tree species composition and a negligible effect of thinning intensity. Mixed stands have the highest total stand C stocks: 100 % and 15 % more than pure oak and pine stands respectively, and are here suggested as a feasible and effective mitigation option. Climate change induced a net C loss compared to control scenarios, when reduction in tree growth is taken into account. Mixed stands showed the lowest reduction in forest C stocks due to climate change, indicating that mixed stands are also a valid adaptation strategy. Thus converting from pure to mixed forests would enhance C sequestration under both current and future climate conditions.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. Alvarez S, Rubio A (2013) Carbon baseline in a mixed pine-oak forest in the Juarez Mountain Range (Oaxaca, Mexico) using the CO2FIX v. 3.2 model. Rev Chapingo Ser Cie 19:125–137. doi:10.5154/r.rchscfa.2012.01.005

  2. Binkley D, Giardina C (1998) Why do tree speces affect soils? The Warp and Woof of tree-soil interactions. Biogeochemistry 42:89–106. doi:10.1023/A:1005948126251

  3. Bonan GB (2008) Forests and climate change: forcings, feedbacks, and the climate benefits of forests. Science 320:1444–1449. doi:10.1126/science.1155121

  4. Bravo F, Bravo-Oviedo A, Diaz-Balteiro L (2008) Carbon sequestration in Spanish Mediterranean forests under two management alternatives: a modeling approach. Eur J For Res 127:225–234. doi:10.1007/s10342-007-0198-y

  5. Cannell M, Malcolm D, Robertson P (1992) The ecology of mixed species stands of trees. 320

  6. Chiti T, Díaz-Pinés E, Rubio A (2012) Soil organic carbon stocks of conifers, broadleaf and evergreen broadleaf forests of Spain. Biol Fertil Soils 48:817–826. doi:10.1007/s00374-012-0676-3

  7. D’Amato AW, Fraver S, Palik BJ et al (2011) Singular and interactive effects of blowdown, salvage logging, and wildfire in sub-boreal pine systems. For Ecol Manag 262:2070–2078. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2011.09.003

  8. De Jong B, Masera O, Olguin M, Martinez R (2007) Greenhouse gas mitigation potential of combining forest management and bioenergy substitution: a case study from Central Highlands of Michoacan, Mexico. For Ecol Manag 242:398–411. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2007.01.057

  9. Del Río M, Schütze G, Pretzsch H (2013) Temporal variation of competition and facilitation in mixed species forests in Central Europe. Plant Biol (Stuttg). doi:10.1111/plb.12029

  10. Del Río M, Sterba H (2009) Comparing volume growth in pure and mixed stands of Pinus sylvestris and Quercus pyrenaica. Ann For Sci 66:502. doi:10.1051/forest/2009035

  11. Díaz-Pinés E (2011) Soil carbon storage in the Ecotone between Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) and Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica Willd.) in Central Spain. Technical University of Madrid, Madrid

  12. Díaz-Pinés E, Rubio A, Van Miegroet H et al (2011a) Does tree species composition control soil organic carbon pools in Mediterranean mountain forests? For Ecol Manag 262:1895–1904. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2011.02.004

  13. Díaz-Pinés E, Rubio A, Montes F (2011b) Aboveground soil C inputs in the ecotone between Scots pine and Pyrenean oak in Sierra de Guadarrama. For Syst. doi:10.5424/fs/20112003-11083

  14. Doblas-Miranda E, Rovira P, Brotons L et al (2013) Soil carbon stocks and their variability across the forests, shrublands and grasslands of peninsular Spain. Biogeosciences 10:8353–8361. doi:10.5194/bg-10-8353-2013

  15. Donés J (2003) 2a Revisión de la ordenación forestal del Monte Matas de Valsain. Organismo Autónomo de Parques Nacionales

  16. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (2013) State of Mediterranean Forests 2013. 183

  17. Foley TG, Richter DD, Galik CS (2009) Extending rotation age for carbon sequestration: a cross-protocol comparison of North American forest offsets. For Ecol Manag 259:201–209. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2009.10.014

  18. Gelman V, Hulkkonen V, Kantola R, et al. (2013) Impacts of forest management practices on forest carbon. HENVI Work. 2013 Interdiscip. approach to For. Clim. Chang. Helsinki (Finland), p 20

  19. Giorgi F, Lionello P (2008) Climate change projections for the Mediterranean region. Glob Planet Chang 63:90–104. doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2007.09.005

  20. IGBP/GCP (International Geosphere Biosphere Programme/Global Carbon Project) (2010) Global carbon dioxide budget. Accessed 20 Jul 2013

  21. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (2007) The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007

  22. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (2006) Volume 4 Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use. 2006 IPCC Guidel. Natl. Greenh. Gas Invent

  23. Jandl R, Lindner M, Vesterdal L et al (2007) How strongly can forest management influence soil carbon sequestration? Geoderma 137:253–268. doi:10.1016/j.geoderma.2006.09.003

  24. Kaipainen T, Liski J, Pussinen A, Karjalainen T (2004) Managing carbon sinks by changing rotation length in European forests. Environ Sci Pol 7:205–219. doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2004.03.001

  25. Kaul M, Mohren GMJ, Dadhwal VK (2010) Carbon storage and sequestration potential of selected tree species in India. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 15:489–510. doi:10.1007/s11027-010-9230-5

  26. Kelty MJ (2006) The role of species mixtures in plantation forestry. For Ecol Manag 233:195–204. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2006.05.011

  27. Liski J, Palosuo T, Peltoniemi M, Sievänen R (2005) Carbon and decomposition model Yasso for forest soils. Ecol Model 189:168–182. doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2005.03.005

  28. Liski J, Pussinen A, Pingoud K et al (2001) Which rotation length is favourable to carbon sequestration? Can J For Res 31:2004–2013. doi:10.1139/x01-140

  29. Man R, Lieffers VJ (1999) Are mixtures of aspen and white spruce more productive than single species stands? For Chron 75:505–513. doi:10.5558/tfc75505-3

  30. Masera OR, Garza-Caligaris JF, Kanninen M et al (2003) Modeling carbon sequestration in afforestation, agroforestry and forest management projects: the CO2FIX V. 2 approach. Ecol Model 164:177–199. doi:10.1016/S0304-3800(02)00419-2

  31. MMA (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente) (2002) Plan forestal Español. Ministerio de Medio Ambiente (MMA), Madrid, 134p

  32. Mohren GMJ, Klein Goldewijk CGM (1990) CO2FIX: a dynamic model of the CO2 fixation in forest stands. Res Inst For Urban Ecol Wageningen 623:35

  33. Montero G (2005) Estudio autoecológico y modelos de gestión para los rebollares (Quercus pyrenaica Willd.) y normas selvícolas para Pinus pinea L. y Pinus silvestris L. en Castilla y León. 11

  34. Montero G, Ruiz-Peinado R, Muñoz M (2005) Producción de biomasa y fijación de CO2 por los bosques españoles. Monografias Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaría (INIA). Serie Forestal 13. Madrid

  35. Nabuurs G, Schelhaas M (2002) Carbon profiles of typical forest types across Europe assessed with CO2FIX. Ecol Indic 1:213–223. doi:10.1016/S1470-160X(02)00007-9

  36. Nabuurs GJ, Garza-Caligaris JF, Kanninen M et al. (2002) CO2FIX V2.0—manual of a model for quantifying carbon sequestration in forest ecosystems and wood products. 45

  37. Nakicenovic N, Swart R (2000) Emissions scenarios: a special report of working group III of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

  38. Nilsen P, Strand LT (2008) Thinning intensity effects on carbon and nitrogen stores and fluxes in a Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) stand after 33 years. For Ecol Manag 256:201–208. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2008.04.001

  39. Palosuo T, Foereid B, Svensson M et al (2012) A multi-model comparison of soil carbon assessment of a coniferous forest stand. Environ Model Softw 35:38–49. doi:10.1016/j.envsoft.2012.02.004

  40. Pan Y, Birdsey RA, Fang J et al (2011) A large and persistent carbon sink in the world’s forests. Science 333:988–993. doi:10.1126/science.1201609

  41. Perez S, Jandl R, Rubio A (2007) Modelización del secuestro de carbono en sistemas forestales: efecto de la elección de especie. Ecología 21:341–352

  42. Prescott C, Grayston SJ (2013) Tree species influence on microbial communities in litter and soil: current knowledge and research needs. For Ecol Manag 309:19–27. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2013.02.034

  43. Reich PB, Oleksyn J (2008) Climate warming will reduce growth and survival of Scots pine except in the far north. Ecol Lett 11:588–597. doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01172.x

  44. Roig S, del Río M, Cañellas I, Montero G (2005) Litter fall in Mediterranean Pinus pinaster Ait. stands under different thinning regimes. For Ecol Manag 206:179–190. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2004.10.068

  45. Rojo A, Montero G (1996) El Pino Silvestre en la Sierra de Guadarrama. Minist. Agric. Pesca y Aliment, Madrid

  46. Rosengren U, Göransson H, Jönsson U et al (2005) Functional biodiversity aspects on the nutrient sustainability in forests — importance of root distribution. J Sustain For 21:77–100. doi:10.1300/J091v21n02_06

  47. Rovira P, Romanyà Socoró J, Rubio A et al. (2007) Estimación del carbono orgánico en los suelos peninsulares españoles. El Pap los bosques españoles en la mitigación del cambio climático 197–222

  48. Rubio A, Gavilán RG, Montes F et al (2011) Biodiversity measures applied to stand-level management: can they really be useful? Ecol Indic 11:545–556. doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2010.07.011

  49. Ruiz-Labourdette D, Schmitz MF, Pineda FD (2013) Changes in tree species composition in Mediterranean mountains under climate change: indicators for conservation planning. Ecol Indic 24:310–323. doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2012.06.021

  50. Ruiz-Peinado R, Bravo-Oviedo A, López-Senespleda E et al (2012) Do thinnings influence biomass and soil carbon stocks in Mediterranean maritime pinewoods? Eur J For Res 132:253–262. doi:10.1007/s10342-012-0672-z

  51. Sabaté S, Gracia CA, Sánchez A (2002) Likely effects of climate change on growth of Quercus ilex, Pinus halepensis, Pinus pinaster, Pinus sylvestris and Fagus sylvatica forests in the Mediterranean region. For Ecol Manag 162:23–37. doi:10.1016/S0378-1127(02)00048-8

  52. Sánchez Palomares O, Sánchez F, Carretero M (1999) Modelos y cartografía de estimaciones climáticas termopluviometricas para España Peninsular. MAPA, Madrid

  53. Schelhaas MJ, Van Esch PW, Groen TA et al (2004) CO2FIX V 3.1 - description of a model for quantifying carbon sequestration in forest ecosystems and wood products. ALTERRA, Wageningen

  54. Serrada R (2008) Apuntes de selvicultura. Servicio de publicaciones, EUIT Forestal, Madrid

  55. Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M et al (2007) Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

  56. Valbuena-Carabaña M, González-Martínez SC, Gil L (2008) Coppice forests and genetic diversity: a case study in Quercus pyrenaica Willd. from Central Spain. For Ecol Manag 254:225–232. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2007.08.001

  57. Vesterdal L, Dalsgaard M, Felby C et al (1995) Effects of thinning and soil properties on accumulation of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus in the forest floor of Norway spruce stands. For Ecol Manag 77:1–10. doi:10.1016/0378-1127(95)03579-Y

Download references


We would like to thank Dr. Miren Del Río for her valuable advice, and the management of Valsain for their support, particularly Javier Donés. This work has been partially funded by the projects AGL2010-16862/FOR and SUM2006-00034-CO2 from the Spanish Ministry of Education. The paper has been revised by Ms Pru Brooke-Turner.

Author information

Correspondence to Sergio Alvarez.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Alvarez, S., Ortiz, C., Díaz-Pinés, E. et al. Influence of tree species composition, thinning intensity and climate change on carbon sequestration in Mediterranean mountain forests: a case study using the CO2Fix model. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 21, 1045–1058 (2016) doi:10.1007/s11027-014-9565-4

Download citation


  • Biomass carbon
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Modeling
  • Mediterranean forests
  • Scots pine
  • Soil organic carbon
  • Pyrenean oak