Estimating carbon stock in secondary forests: decisions and uncertainties associated with allometric biomass models.

M. van Breugel, J. Ransijn, D. Craven, F. Bongers, J. Hall

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Secondary forests are a major terrestrial carbon sink and reliable estimates of their carbon stocks are pivotal for understanding the global carbon balance and initiatives to mitigate CO2 emissions through forest management and reforestation. A common method to quantify carbon stocks in forests is the use of allometric regression models to convert forest inventory data to estimates of aboveground biomass (AGB). The use of allometric models implies decisions on the selection of extant models or the development of a local model, the predictor variables included in the selected model, and the number of trees and species for destructive biomass measurements. We assess uncertainties associated with these decisions using data from 94 secondary forest plots in central Panama and 244 harvested trees belonging to 26 locally abundant species. AGB estimates from species-specific models were used to assess relative errors of estimates from multispecies models. To reduce uncertainty in the estimation of plot AGB, including wood specific gravity (WSG) in the model was more important than the number of trees used for model fitting. However, decreasing the number of trees increased uncertainty of landscape-level AGB estimates substantially, while including WSG had limited effects on the accuracy of the landscape-level estimates. Predictions of stand and landscape AGB varied strongly among models, making model choice an important source of uncertainty. Local models provided more accurate AGB estimates than foreign models, but high variability in carbon stocks across the landscape implies that developing local models is only justified when landscape sampling is sufficiently intensive. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1648-1657
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • aboveground tree biomass
  • tropical rain-forest
  • wood density
  • climate-change
  • functional-groups
  • brazilian amazon
  • landscape-scale
  • land-use
  • deforestation
  • equations

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