Annals of Forest Science

, 76:87 | Cite as

Scaling-up individual-level allometric equations to predict stand-level fuel loading in Mediterranean shrublands

  • Miquel De CáceresEmail author
  • Pere Casals
  • Eva Gabriel
  • Xavier Castro
Research Paper


Key message

Allometric biomass equations developed for individual shrubs can be applied to estimate shrubland fuels from measurements of cover and average height by species.


Shrubs are a major component of surface fuels in many fire-prone ecosystems. Shrub fuel loading is often estimated by “double sampling”, where data from a destructive vegetation survey is used to model vegetation-fuel relationships (development phase), and these relationships are then applied to vegetation data from a second survey (application phase). Vegetation-fuel relationships can be modeled at different levels of vegetation detail, from individual plants to stands, but the increased effort of detailed measurements may compromise large-scale applications.


To facilitate fuel loading assessments in Mediterranean shrublands, we present and test a novel method to estimate stand-level shrub loading that consists in applying individual-level allometric equations to vegetation plot data collected by measuring the percent cover and mean height of each shrub species.


We used individual-level data (i.e., plant dimensions and dry weights) to develop allometric equations for total and fine (leaves and branches < 6 mm) biomass of 26 Mediterranean shrub species. We then evaluated the accuracy and precision of the proposed method in comparison to an approach assuming constant bulk density, using data from 131 vegetation plots and taking as benchmark stand-level loading estimates derived by aggregation of individual biomass allometric estimates. A second set of 13 plots was used to quantify the additional error derived from visual estimation of species mean height and cover.


The performance of species-specific models was acceptable in estimating total and fine biomass at the individual level. When based on species mean height and cover data, stand-level fuel loading estimates calculated using the proposed method had a better precision and accuracy than those obtained using bulk density values (− 4 vs. + 39% in relative bias; 10 vs. 40% in relative MAE). Visual estimation of species mean height and percent cover led to 10 and 16% increase in MAE for species loading estimates of total and fine fuels, respectively, with respect to estimates obtained without this source of error.


Our approach to estimate shrub loading allows combining fast species-level vegetation sampling with the flexibility of individual-level allometries to model to size-related variations of bulk density.


Bulk density Fine fuels Fuel loading Fuel mapping Vegetation sampling 



We are grateful to AI Ríos, M Sala, JM Blanco, R Vila and the Cos d’Agents rurals and GEPIF (Generalitat de Catalunya) for their help in clipping plants and field measurements. Some species’ datasets were kindly provided by Lluís Coll (UdL), Beatriz Duguy (UB), and Joan Romanyà (UB).


This work was supported by the Conselleria d’Agricultura de la Generalitat de Catalunya and the research projects CGL2017-89149-C2-2-R and RTI2018-098778-B-I00 (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness) and by a Spanish “Ramon y Cajal” fellowship to M.D.C (RYC-2012-11109).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Joint Research Unit CTFC – AGROTECNIOSolsonaSpain
  2. 2.Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF)Cerdanyola del VallesSpain
  3. 3.Servei de Prevenció d’Incendis Forestals, Departament d’Agricultura Ramaderia, Pesca i AlimentacióGeneralitat de CatalunyaSanta Perpètua de MogodaSpain

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