Journal of Forestry Research

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 13–22 | Cite as

Spatial variation and prediction of forest biomass in a heterogeneous landscape

  • S. Lamsal
  • D. M. Rizzo
  • R. K. Meentemeyer
Original Paper


Large areas assessments of forest biomass distribution are a challenge in heterogeneous landscapes, where variations in tree growth and species composition occur over short distances. In this study, we use statistical and geospatial modeling on densely sampled forest biomass data to analyze the relative importance of ecological and physiographic variables as determinants of spatial variation of forest biomass in the environmentally heterogeneous region of the Big Sur, California. We estimated biomass in 280 forest plots (one plot per 2.85 km2) and measured an array of ecological (vegetation community type, distance to edge, amount of surrounding non-forest vegetation, soil properties, fire history) and physiographic drivers (elevation, potential soil moisture and solar radiation, proximity to the coast) of tree growth at each plot location. Our geostatistical analyses revealed that biomass distribution is spatially structured and autocorrelated up to 3.1 km. Regression tree (RT) models showed that both physiographic and ecological factors influenced biomass distribution. Across randomly selected sample densities (sample size 112 to 280), ecological effects of vegetation community type and distance to forest edge, and physiographic effects of elevation, potential soil moisture and solar radiation were the most consistent predictors of biomass. Topographic moisture index and potential solar radiation had a positive effect on biomass, indicating the importance of topographicallymediated energy and moisture on plant growth and biomass accumulation. RT model explained 35% of the variation in biomass and spatially autocorrelated variation were retained in regession residuals. Regression kriging model, developed from RT combined with kriging of regression residuals, was used to map biomass across the Big Sur. This study demonstrates how statistical and geospatial modeling can be used to discriminate the relative importance of physiographic and ecologic effects on forest biomass and develop spatial models to predict and map biomass distribution across a heterogeneous landscape.


forest biomass landscape heterogeneity spatial variation semivariogram regression tree regression kriging Big Sur California 


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Copyright information

© Northeast Forestry University and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Earth SciencesUniversity of North CarolinaCharlotteUSA
  2. 2.Department of Plant PathologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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