Fayolle et al._Taller trees, denser stands_ForEcolMan_PR2016

Fayolle A., Loubota Panzou G.J., Drouet T., Swaine M.D., Bauwens S., Vleminckx J., Biwole A., Lejeune P., Doucet J.L. [2016] Taller trees, denser stands and greater biomass in semi-deciduous than in evergreen lowland central African forests. Forest Ecology and Management 374, 42–50

Accurate height-diameter allometry is crucial for the estimation of forest biomass and carbon stocks. Tree height measurements over a large range of diameters and species are urgently needed in the tropics, specifically in central Africa, for the development of locally derived height-diameter allometric equations and the conversion of forest inventory data into biomass estimates, and for the validation of remotely sensed canopy height that mostly rely on a few specific field sites. In this study, we aimed to identify the variation in height-diameter allometry of tropical trees between forest types and among species in central Africa, and we examined the consequences for biomass estimation. Height and diameter were measured for a total of 521 trees over a large range of diameters in two forest types in southern Cameroon, 10–240 cm in the evergreen forest and 11–182 cm in the semi-deciduous forest. A total of ten allometric models including asymptotic and non-asymptotic models were fitted to the heightdiameter data. Measured tree diameters, grouped into 10 cm wide diameter classes up to 150, from commercial forest inventory data (0.5 ha plots, n = 2101 and n = 5152, respectively in the evergreen and in the semi-deciduous forests) were converted into biomass estimates using general allometric models with and without including our site-specific height-diameter allometry. Though debated in the literature, our results supported a saturation of tree height with tree diameter both at site and species level, with asymptotic models better depicting the height-diameter allometry. Height-diameter allometry significantly differed between forest types and these local height-diameter equations also differed from published equations. For a given diameter, trees tended to be taller in the semi-deciduous forest than in the evergreen forest, as already reported between moist and wet forests in pantropical studies. Similar trends were reported within species for the three species shared by both forest types, suggesting an environmental control of tree allometry. Because of the low performance of the bioclimatic stress variable to predict tree height and of the slight soil differences between the two forest types, the environmental determinants of height-diameter allometry remain to be explored. In addition to tree allometry variation, structural differences (basal area and density) were also identified between the two forest types using commercial forest inventory data at genus level, and both allometry and forest structure (taller trees and denser stands) contributed to the greater biomass per hectare of the semi-deciduous forest.

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