Soil carbon stocks and their variability across the forests, shrublands and grasslands of peninsular Spain

Doblas-Miranda E., Rovira P., Brotons L., Martinez-Vilalta J., Retana J., Pla M., Vayreda J. (2013) Soil carbon stocks and their variability across the forests, shrublands and grasslands of peninsular Spain. Biogeosciences. 10: 8353-8361.
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Doi: 10.5194/bg-10-8353-2013

Resum:

Accurate estimates of C stocks and fluxes of soil organic carbon (SOC) are needed to assess the impact of climate and land use change on soil C uptake and soil C emissions to the atmosphere. Here, we present an assessment of SOC stocks in forests, shrublands and grasslands of peninsular Spain based on field measurements in more than 900 soil profiles. SOC to a depth of 1 m was modelled as a function of vegetation cover, mean annual temperature, total annual precipitation, elevation and the interaction between temperature and elevation, while latitude and longitude were used to model the correlation structure of the errors. The resulting statistical model was used to estimate SOC in the ∼8 million pixels of the Spanish Forest Map (29.3 × 106 ha). We present what we believe is the most reliable estimation of current SOC in forests, shrublands and grasslands of peninsular Spain thus far, based on the use of spatial modelling, the high number of profiles and the validity and refinement of the data layers employed. Mean concentration of SOC was 8.7 kg m-2, ranging from 2.3 kg m-2 in dry Mediterranean areas to 20.4 kg m -2 in wetter northern locations. This value corresponds to a total stock of 2.544 Tg SOC, which is four times the amount of C estimated to be stored in the biomass of Spanish forests. Climate and vegetation cover were the main variables influencing SOC, with important ecological implications for peninsular Spanish ecosystems in the face of global change. The fact that SOC was positively related to annual precipitation and negatively related to mean annual temperature suggests that future climate change predictions of increased temperature and reduced precipitation may strongly reduce the potential of Spanish soils as C sinks. However, this may be mediated by changes in vegetation cover (e.g. by favouring the development of forests associated to higher SOC values) and exacerbated by perturbations such as fire. The estimations presented here provide a baseline to estimate future changes in soil C stocks and to assess their vulnerability to key global change drivers, and should inform future actions aimed at the conservation and management of C stocks. © 2013 Author(s).

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Patterns and drivers of regeneration of tree species in forests of peninsular Spain

Vayreda J., Gracia M., Martinez-Vilalta J., Retana J. (2013) Patterns and drivers of regeneration of tree species in forests of peninsular Spain. Journal of Biogeography. 40: 1252-1265.
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Doi: 10.1111/jbi.12105

Resum:

Aim: Our study aimed to identify and explore the main factors that influence tree recruitment of multiple species at a regional scale across peninsular Spain, an understanding of which is essential for predicting future forest species composition in the face of ongoing environmental change. The study focused on the dynamics of the key transition phase from saplings to adult trees. Location: The forests of peninsular Spain. Methods: We used the extensive network of plots sampled in two consecutive Spanish national forest inventories (> 30,000 plots) to identify the factors that determine regeneration patterns of the 10 most abundant forest species of Spain at relatively large temporal (c. 10 years) and spatial scales (across Spain): five coniferous species of Pinus (pines) and five broadleaved species of the genera Fagus and Quercus. We fitted separate generalized linear models for the pine species and the broadleaved species to assess the response of sapling abundance and ingrowth rate to the spatial variability of climate (temperature, water availability and recent warming), forest structure (tree density, understorey and overstorey canopy cover, and basal area change) and disturbances (previous forest logging, wildfires and grazing). Results: Mean sapling abundance was four times higher for broadleaved species than for pines, while mean annual ingrowth was twice as high. Sapling abundance and ingrowth rate were mainly determined by stand structure, both in pines and broadleaved trees. The direct effects of disturbances and climate were comparatively smaller, and there was no detectable effect of recent warming. Main conclusions: The higher values of ingrowth rate of broadleaved species can be explained by their ability to maintain a higher sapling bank due to their greater shade tolerance. This differential response of pines and broadleaved species to canopy closure suggests a probable increase in broadleaved species at the expense of pines. This transition could occur earlier in stands with faster canopy closure dynamics. Spatially explicit, mixed-species demographic models incorporating both the ingrowth and the tree mortality components are needed for predicting the composition of future forests. © 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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