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Height-diameter allometry of tropical forest trees

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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  • T. R. Feldpausch
  • L. Banin
  • O. L. Phillips
  • T. R. Baker
  • S. L. Lewis
  • C. A. Quesada
  • K. Affum-Baffoe
  • E. J. M. M. Arets
  • N. J. Berry
  • M. Bird
  • E. S. Brondizio
  • P. de Camargo
  • J. Chave
  • G. Djagbletey
  • T. F. Domingues
  • M. Drescher
  • P. M. Fearnside
  • M. B. Franca
  • N. M. Fyllas
  • G. Lopez-Gonzalez
  • A. Hladik
  • N. Higuchi
  • M. O. Hunter
  • Y. Iida
  • K. A. Salim
  • A. R. Kassim
  • M. Keller
  • J. Kemp
  • D. A. King
  • J. C. Lovett
  • B. S. Marimon
  • B. H. Marimon-Junior
  • E. Lenza
  • D. J. Metcalfe
  • E. T. A. Mitchard
  • E. F. Moran
  • B. W. Nelson
  • R. Nilus
  • E. M. Nogueira
  • M. Palace
  • S. Patino
  • K. S. -H. Peh
  • M. T. Raventos
  • J. M. Reitsma
  • G. Saiz
  • F. Schrodt
  • B. Sonke
  • H. E. Taedoumg
  • S. Tan
  • L. White
  • H. Woell
  • J. Lloyd


Publication details

DatePublished - 2011
Issue number5
Number of pages26
Pages (from-to)1081-1106
Original languageEnglish


Tropical tree height-diameter (H:D) relationships may vary by forest type and region making large-scale estimates of above-ground biomass subject to bias if they ignore these differences in stem allometry. We have therefore developed a new global tropical forest database consisting of 39 955 concurrent H and D measurements encompassing 283 sites in 22 tropical countries. Utilising this database, our objectives were:

1. to determine if H:D relationships differ by geographic region and forest type (wet to dry forests, including zones of tension where forest and savanna overlap).

2. to ascertain if the H:D relationship is modulated by climate and/or forest structural characteristics (e.g. stand-level basal area, A).

3. to develop H:D allometric equations and evaluate biases to reduce error in future local-to-global estimates of tropical forest biomass.

Annual precipitation coefficient of variation (P-V), dry season length (S-D), and mean annual air temperature (T-A) emerged as key drivers of variation in H:D relationships at the pantropical and region scales. Vegetation structure also played a role with trees in forests of a high A being, on average, taller at any given D. After the effects of environment and forest structure are taken into account, two main regional groups can be identified. Forests in Asia, Africa and the Guyana Shield all have, on average, similar H:D relationships, but with trees in the forests of much of the Amazon Basin and tropical Australia typically being shorter at any given D than their counterparts elsewhere.

The region-environment-structure model with the lowest Akaike's information criterion and lowest deviation estimated stand-level H across all plots to within a median -2.7 to 0.9% of the true value. Some of the plot-to-plot variability in H:D relationships not accounted for by this model could be attributed to variations in soil physical conditions. Other things being equal, trees tend to be more slender in the absence of soil physical constraints, especially at smaller D. Pantropical and continental-level models provided less robust estimates of H, especially when the roles of climate and stand structure in modulating H:D allometry were not simultaneously taken into account.

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