Above-ground forest biomass is not consistently related to wood density in tropical forests

James C. Stegen, Nathan G. Swenson, Renato Valencia, Brian Enquist, Jill Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Aim: It is increasingly accepted that the mean wood density of trees within a forest is tightly coupled to above-ground forest biomass. It is unknown, however, if a positive relationship between forest biomass and mean community wood density is a general phenomenon across forests. Understanding spatial variation in biomass as a function of wood density both within and among forests is important for predicting changes in stored carbon in response to global change, and here we evaluated the generality of a positive biomass-wood density relationship within and among six tropical forests. Location: Costa Rica, Panama, Puerto Rico and Ecuador. Methods: Individual stem data, including diameter at breast height and spatial position, for six forest dynamics plots were merged with an extensive wood density database. Individual stem biomass values were calculated from these data using published statistical models. Total above ground biomass, total basal area and mean community wood density were also quantified across a range of subcommunity plot sizes within each forest. Results: Among forests, biomass did not vary with mean community wood density. The relationship between subcommunity biomass and mean wood density within a forest varied from negative to null to positive depending on the size of subcommunities and forest identity. The direction of correlation was determined by the associated total basal area-mean wood density correlation, the slope of which increased strongly with whole forest mean wood density. Main conclusions: There is no general relationship between forest biomass and wood density, and in some forests, stored carbon is highest where wood density is lowest. Our results suggest that declining wood density, due to global change, will result in decreased or increased stored carbon in forests with high or low mean wood density, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)617-625
Number of pages9
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Volume18
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009

Fingerprint

wood density
tropical forests
tropical forest
biomass
global change
basal area
carbon
stem
general phenomena
stems
forest dynamics
Puerto Rico
aboveground biomass
Panama
Ecuador
statistical models
tree and stand measurements
Costa Rica
spatial variation

Keywords

  • Atmosphere-biosphere feedbacks
  • Carbon cycle
  • Carbon storage
  • Forest dynamics plot
  • Fragmentation
  • Functional traits
  • Global change
  • Lianas
  • Nitrogen deposition
  • Tropical forests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Above-ground forest biomass is not consistently related to wood density in tropical forests. / Stegen, James C.; Swenson, Nathan G.; Valencia, Renato; Enquist, Brian; Thompson, Jill.

In: Global Ecology and Biogeography, Vol. 18, No. 5, 2009, p. 617-625.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Stegen, James C. ; Swenson, Nathan G. ; Valencia, Renato ; Enquist, Brian ; Thompson, Jill. / Above-ground forest biomass is not consistently related to wood density in tropical forests. In: Global Ecology and Biogeography. 2009 ; Vol. 18, No. 5. pp. 617-625.
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