Height-diameter allometry and above ground biomass in tropical montane forests: Insights from the Albertine Rift in Africa
by Gérard Imani, Faustin Boyemba, Simon Lewis, Nsharwasi Léon Nabahungu, Kim Calders, Louis Zapfack, Bernard Riera, Clarisse Balegamire, Aida Cuni-SanchezTropical montane forests provide an important natural laboratory to test ecological theory. While it is well-known that some aspects of forest structure change with altitude, little is known on the effects of altitude on above ground biomass (AGB), particularly with regard to changing height-diameter allometry. To address this we investigate (1) the effects of altitude on height-diameter allometry, (2) how different height-diameter allometric models affect above ground biomass estimates; and (3) how other forest structural, taxonomic and environmental attributes affect above ground biomass using 30 permanent sample plots (1-ha; all trees ≥ 10 cm diameter measured) established between 1250 and 2600 m asl in Kahuzi Biega National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Forest structure and species composition differed with increasing altitude, with four forest types identified. Different height-diameter allometric models performed better with the different forest types, as trees got smaller with increasing altitude. Above ground biomass ranged from 168 to 290 Mg ha-1, but there were no significant differences in AGB between forests types, as tree size decreased but stem density increased with increasing altitude. Forest structure had greater effects on above ground biomass than forest diversity. Soil attributes (K and acidity, pH) also significantly affected above ground biomass. Results show how forest structural, taxonomic and environmental attributes affect above ground biomass in African tropical montane forests. They particularly highlight that the use of regional height-diameter models introduces significant biases in above ground biomass estimates, and that different height-diameter models might be preferred for different forest types, and these should be considered in future studies.
Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article
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