Although forest management is one of the instruments proposed to mitigate climate change, the relationship between forest management and canopy albedo has been ignored so far by climate models. Here we develop an approach that could be implemented in Earth system models. A stand-level forest gap model is combined with a canopy radiation transfer model and satellite-derived model parameters to quantify the effects of forest thinning on summertime canopy albedo. This approach reveals which parameter has the largest affect on summer canopy albedo: we examined the effects of three forest species (pine, beech, oak) and four thinning strategies with a constant forest floor albedo (light to intense thinning regimes) and five different solar zenith angles at five different sites (40° N 9° E-60° N 9° E). During stand establishment, summertime canopy albedo is driven by tree species. In the later stages of stand development, the effect of tree species on summertime canopy albedo decreases in favour of an increasing influence of forest thinning. These trends continue until the end of the rotation, where thinning explains up to 50% of the variance in near-infrared albedo and up to 70% of the variance in visible canopy albedo.
The absolute summertime canopy albedo of all species ranges from 0.03 to 0.06 (visible) and 0.20 to 0.28 (near-infrared); thus the albedo needs to be parameterised at species level. In addition, Earth system models need to account for forest management in such a way that structural changes in the canopy are described by changes in leaf area index and crown volume (maximum change of 0.02 visible and 0.05 near-infrared albedo) and that the expression of albedo depends on the solar zenith angle (maximum change of 0.02 visible and 0.05 near-infrared albedo). Earth system models taking into account these parameters would not only be able to examine the spatial effects of forest management but also the total effects of forest management on climate.