, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 807–817 | Cite as

Evaluating a non-destructive method for calibrating tree biomass equations derived from tree branching architecture

  • David W. MacFarlane
  • Shem Kuyah
  • Rachmat Mulia
  • Johannes Dietz
  • Catherine Muthuri
  • Meine Van Noordwijk
Original Paper


Key message

Functional branch analysis (FBA) is a promising non-destructive method that can produce accurate tree biomass equations when applied to trees which exhibit fractal branching architecture.


Functional branch analysis (FBA) is a promising non-destructive alternative to the standard destructive method of tree biomass equation development. In FBA, a theoretical model of tree branching architecture is calibrated with measurements of tree stems and branches to estimate the coefficients of the biomass equation. In this study, species-specific and mixed-species tree biomass equations were derived from destructive sampling of trees in Western Kenya and compared to tree biomass equations derived non-destructively from FBA. The results indicated that the non-destructive FBA method can produce biomass equations that are similar to, but less accurate than, those derived from standard methods. FBA biomass prediction bias was attributed to the fact that real trees diverged from fractal branching architecture due to highly variable length–diameter relationships of stems and branches and inaccurate scaling relationships for the lengths of tree crowns and trunks assumed under the FBA model.


Tree biomass Functional branch analysis Fractal geometry Allometry 



The authors would like to thank the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Environmental Facility of the United Nations, members of the Carbon Benefits Project at Michigan State University and ICRAF offices in Kisumu and Nairobi, Kenya, without whose support the data used in this study would not have been generated. The authors would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for suggestions to improve the quality of this manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest to report regarding this submission.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • David W. MacFarlane
    • 1
  • Shem Kuyah
    • 2
    • 3
  • Rachmat Mulia
    • 4
  • Johannes Dietz
    • 5
  • Catherine Muthuri
    • 2
    • 3
  • Meine Van Noordwijk
    • 4
  1. 1.Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT)NairobiKenya
  3. 3.World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)NairobiKenya
  4. 4.World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)BogorIndonesia
  5. 5.World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)Lima 12Peru

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