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J Environ Manage. 2010 Dec;91(12):2688-95. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2010.07.031. Epub 2010 Aug 11.

Land-use changes and carbon sequestration through the twentieth century in a Mediterranean mountain ecosystem: implications for land management.

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Estación Experimental de Zonas Aridas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Carretera de Sacramento s/n, E-04120 La Cañada de San Urbano, Almería, Spain.


Ecosystems in the western Mediterranean basin have undergone intense changes in land use throughout the centuries, resulting in areas with severe alterations. Today, most these areas have become sensitive to human activity, prone to profound changes in land-use configuration and ecosystem services. A consensus exists amongst stakeholders that ecosystem services must be preserved but managerial strategies that help to preserve them while ensuring sustainability are often inadequate. To provide a basis for measuring implications of land-use change on carbon sequestration services, changes in land use and associated carbon sequestration potential throughout the 20th century in a rural area at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range (SE Spain) were explored. We found that forest systems replaced dryland farming and pastures from the middle of the century onwards as a result of agricultural abandonment and afforestation programs. The area has always acted as a carbon sink with sequestration rates ranging from 28,961 t CO(2) year(-1) in 1921 to 60,635 t CO(2) year(-1) in 1995, mirroring changes in land use. Conversion from pastures to woodland, for example, accounted for an increase in carbon sequestration above 30,000 t CO(2) year(-1) by the end of the century. However, intensive deforestation would imply a decrease of approximately 66% of the bulk CO(2) fixed. In our study area, woodland conservation is essential to maintain the ecosystem services that underlie carbon sequestration. Our essay could inspire policymakers to better achieve goals of increasing carbon sequestration rates and sustainability within protected areas.

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