Capturing spiral radial growth of conifers using the superellipse to model tree-ring geometric shape
CITATION: Shi, P. J., et al. 2015. Capturing spiral radial growth of conifers using the superellipse to model tree-ring geometric shape. Frontiers in Plant Science, 6:856, doi:10.3389/fpls.2015.00856.
The original publication is available at www.frontiersin.org
Tree-rings are often assumed to approximate a circular shape when estimating forest productivity and carbon dynamics. However, tree rings are rarely, if ever, circular, thereby possibly resulting in under- or over-estimation in forest productivity and carbon sequestration. Given the crucial role played by tree ring data in assessing forest productivity and carbon storage within a context of global change, it is particularly important that mathematical models adequately render cross-sectional area increment derived from tree rings. We modeled the geometric shape of tree rings using the superellipse equation and checked its validation based on the theoretical simulation and six actual cross sections collected from three conifers. We found that the superellipse better describes the geometric shape of tree rings than the circle commonly used. We showed that a spiral growth trend exists on the radial section over time, which might be closely related to spiral grain along the longitudinal axis. The superellipse generally had higher accuracy than the circle in predicting the basal area increment, resulting in an improved estimate for the basal area. The superellipse may allow better assessing forest productivity and carbon storage in terrestrial forest ecosystems.