Towards effective management practices to enhance carbon sequestration and climate change adaptation of Spanish Quercus forests (TED2021-129499A-I00)
Holm oak forests are of utmost importance in Spain due to their wide distribution area and socio-economical value. However, during the last decades, these have shown clear signs of decline (defoliation and mortality), partially derived from the rural depopulation and associated abandonment of traditional forest management. The lack of silvicultural practices has resulted in a high density of overaged individuals showing remarkable structural and functional problems, with devastating consequences for the health of these iconic forests in the current climate change scenario. Consequently, natural carbon sinks are weakened due to limited tree growth, and the forest resilience against climate variability is reduced. Given the urgent need to promote the conservation of this species of enormous ecological and socioeconomic importance in the Iberian Peninsula, it is a priority to improve our current understanding on the mechanisms and agents involved in health loss and vulnerability to climate extremes, and to test potential solutions to reduce their current decline.
The main goal of the project is to evaluate the effect of thinning practices on the carbon sequestration capacity and climate change adaptation of holm oak forests in the short- and long-term. To do so, a micrometeorological forest observatory will be setup in Sarrión (Teruel) aligned with state-of-the-art international standards. Furthermore, a wide variety of other techniques belonging to plant physiology, dendrochronology, and remote sensing disciplines will complement the information acquired by the two eddy covariance stations allowing for the integration of multiple spatial (from cells to pixels), and temporal (from minutes to decades) scales. This project will enable the validation and calibration of satellite-based data products that could assist the design of (a) early-warning systems to detect potential holm oak forest decline and (b) analytical tools to evaluate the efficiency of current and past management practices to reduce forest vulnerability while enhancing natural carbon sinks.
Our project will provide a robust scientific basis to assist Forest Services in the promotion of carbon sinks through forest management, with strong environmental implications for climate change mitigation, as well as to forest adaptation and preservation of natural habitats. Moreover, the project will also contribute to the reactivation of the rural economy linked to currently undervalued woodlands in one of the most dramatically depopulated regions in Europe. Besides the direct jobs associated with forest activities, reactivated coppices can deliver thinning products with a growing marketable potential (pellets and biochar), and promote the development of valuable mycorrhizal fungi. The latter are particularly relevant in the area of study, due to the increasing economic weight of black truffle and mycotourism.