Aboveground biomass and carbon in a South African mistbelt forest and the relationships with tree species diversity and forest structures

Mensah, Sylvanus ; Veldtman, Ruan ; Du Toit, Ben ; Kakai, Romain Glele ; Seifert, Thomas (2016)

CITATION: Mensah, S., et al. 2016. Aboveground biomass and carbon in a South African mistbelt forest and the relationships with tree species diversity and forest structures. Forests, 7(4):79, doi:10.3390/f7040079.

The original publication is available at http://www.mdpi.com

Article

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Biomass and carbon stocks are key information criteria to understand the role of forests in regulating global climate. However, for a bio-rich continent like Africa, ground-based measurements for accurate estimation of carbon are scarce, and the variables affecting the forest carbon are not well understood. Here, we present the first biomass study conducted in South Africa Mistbelt forests. Using data from a non-destructive sampling of 59 trees of four species, we (1) evaluated the accuracy of multispecies aboveground biomass (AGB) models, using predictors such as diameter at breast height (DBH), total height (H) and wood density; (2) estimated the amount of biomass and carbon stored in the aboveground compartment of Mistbelt forests and (3) explored the variation of aboveground carbon (AGC) in relation to tree species diversity and structural variables. We found significant effects of species on wood density and AGB. Among the candidate models, the model that incorporated DBH and H as a compound variable (DBH2 × H) was the best fitting. AGB and AGC values were highly variable across all plots, with average values of 358.1 Mg·ha−1 and 179.0 Mg·C·ha−1, respectively. Few species contributed 80% of AGC stock, probably as a result of selection effect. Stand basal area, basal area of the ten most important species and basal area of the largest trees were the most influencing variables. Tree species richness was also positively correlated with AGC, but the basal area of smaller trees was not. These results enable insights into the role of biodiversity in maintaining carbon storage and the possibilities for sustainable strategies for timber harvesting without risk of significant biomass decline.

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