Forests contribute to climate change mitigation by removing atmospheric carbon dioxide and storing it in biomass and other carbon pools. Additionally, since appropriate forest management can reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, it is important to estimate the magnitude of these services to include them into climate policy. We used a forest inventory stratified by canopy cover in the oak-pine forest of La Primavera Biosphere Reserve in México (30,500 ha), to assess the potential provision of forest carbon services. Inventory results were used in combination with a Landsat image to estimate carbon stocks in arboreal biomass. Potential carbon removals were calculated from published allometric equations and models estimating tree growth rates, for enhancements in forested areas and for reforestation/afforestation. Carbon stocks estimated in arboreal biomass at the time of the inventory were 4.16 MtCO2
eq (3.42–4.89). The potential for further carbon sequestration and enhancement could take the level of stocks up to 9.77 MtCO2
eq (7.66–11.89, 95% confidence interval); previous fires have degraded carbon stocks below their natural potential. The results present a gradient of carbon stocks for different degradation levels and are consistent with national and international estimates and previous local research. The baseline for the estimation of reduced emissions is critical for assessing the overall contribution of forests to mitigate climate change. The local baseline of emissions might be around 1% according to historical data; however, when enhancements and reduced emissions are valuated together, a baseline of 3.7% is required to prevent the creation of perverse incentives favouring previously degraded areas; considering these figures for reduced emissions, the yearly carbon services provided by La Primavera, including enhancements, sequestration and reduced emissions, could be between 169.4 ktCO2
eq/year (134.8–204.5) and 282.1 ktCO2
eq/year (228.2–337.1), respectively. Over a period of 60 years, this would be equivalent to 2.4 and 4.1 times the magnitude of mean standing stocks at the time of the inventory. If incentive-based mechanisms are used to maintain and enhance forest carbon services and perverse incentives are to be avoided, a balanced mix of incentives and controls is needed.