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Tree allometry and improved estimation of carbon stocks and balance in tropical forests

Abstract

Tropical forests hold large stores of carbon, yet uncertainty remains regarding their quantitative contribution to the global carbon cycle. One approach to quantifying carbon biomass stores consists in inferring changes from long-term forest inventory plots. Regression models are used to convert inventory data into an estimate of aboveground biomass (AGB). We provide a critical reassessment of the quality and the robustness of these models across tropical forest types, using a large dataset of 2,410 trees ≥ 5 cm diameter, directly harvested in 27 study sites across the tropics. Proportional relationships between aboveground biomass and the product of wood density, trunk cross-sectional area, and total height are constructed. We also develop a regression model involving wood density and stem diameter only. Our models were tested for secondary and old-growth forests, for dry, moist and wet forests, for lowland and montane forests, and for mangrove forests. The most important predictors of AGB of a tree were, in decreasing order of importance, its trunk diameter, wood specific gravity, total height, and forest type (dry, moist, or wet). Overestimates prevailed, giving a bias of 0.5–6.5% when errors were averaged across all stands. Our regression models can be used reliably to predict aboveground tree biomass across a broad range of tropical forests. Because they are based on an unprecedented dataset, these models should improve the quality of tropical biomass estimates, and bring consensus about the contribution of the tropical forest biome and tropical deforestation to the global carbon cycle.

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Acknowledgements

We thank T. Yoneda for his help with the Pasoh dataset, C. Jordan and H.L. Clark for their help with the San Carlos dataset, R. Condit, S.J. DeWalt, J. Ewel, P.J. Grubb, K. Lajtha, and D. Sheil for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript, the CTFS Analytical Workshop (Fushan, Taiwan) participants for their feedback on this work, F. Bongers, S. Schnitzer, and E.V.J. Tanner for correspondence, and the team of librarians in Toulouse for their assistance. This manuscript has not been subject to the EPA peer review process and should not be construed to represent Agency policy.

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Correspondence to J. Chave.

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Communicated by Christian Koerner

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Chave, J., Andalo, C., Brown, S. et al. Tree allometry and improved estimation of carbon stocks and balance in tropical forests. Oecologia 145, 87–99 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-005-0100-x

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Keywords

  • Biomass
  • Carbon
  • Plant allometry
  • Tropical forest