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Spatial and temporal patterns of carbon (C) storage in forest ecosystems significantly affect the terrestrial C budget, but such patterns are unclear in the forests in Hainan Province, the largest tropical island in China. Here, we estimated the spatial and temporal patterns of C storage from 1993–2008 in Hainan's forest ecosystems by combining our measured data with four consecutive national forest inventories data. Forest coverage increased from 20.7% in the 1950s to 56.4% in the 2010s. The average C density of 163.7 Mg C/ha in Hainan's forest ecosystems in this study was slightly higher than that of China's mainland forests, but was remarkably lower than that in the tropical forests worldwide. Total forest ecosystem C storage in Hainan increased from 109.51 Tg in 1993 to 279.17 Tg in 2008. Soil C accounted for more than 70% of total forest ecosystem C. The spatial distribution of forest C storage in Hainan was uneven, reflecting differences in land use change and forest management. The potential carbon sequestration of forest ecosystems was 77.3 Tg C if all forested lands were restored to natural tropical forests. To increase the C sequestration potential on Hainan Island, future forest management should focus on the conservation of natural forests, selection of tree species, planting of understory species, and implementation of sustainable practices.