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Diversity increases carbon storage and tree productivity in Spanish forests


  • Editor: Navin Ramankutty



Biodiversity loss could reduce primary productivity and the carbon storage provided by forests; however, the mechanisms underpinning the effects of biodiversity on multiple ecosystem functions are not completely understood. Spanish forests are of particular interest because of the broad variation in environmental conditions and management history. We tested for the existence of a relationship between diversity effects and both carbon storage and tree productivity, and examined the relative importance of complementarity and selection mechanisms in a wide variety of forests, from cold deciduous Atlantic to xeric Mediterranean evergreen forests.


Continental Spain.


We used c. 54,000 plots of the Spanish Forest Inventory and maximum likelihood techniques to quantify how climate, stand structure and diversity shape carbon storage and tree productivity. Diversity effects included both complementarity and selection mechanisms, measured respectively through functional diversity and functional identity measures.


Diversity had a significant effect on both carbon storage and tree productivity, even when controlling for confounding factors of climate and stand structure. A consistent positive effect of functional diversity on carbon storage and tree productivity was observed in all seven forest types studied. This relationship was not linear, and the largest changes in carbon storage and tree productivity were observed at low levels of functional diversity. However, the importance of complementarity effects was not consistent with the productivity of different forest types. Selection effects were particularly important in deciduous and Mediterranean pine forests, but had very little effect on mountain pines.

Main conclusions

We found a generally positive effect of diversity on carbon storage and tree productivity, supported by both complementarity and selection mechanisms. Thus, both functionally diverse forests and functionally important species should be maintained to adequately preserve and promote key ecosystem functions such as carbon storage and tree productivity.