Canopy {Area} of {Large} {Trees} {Explains} {Aboveground} {Biomass} {Variations} across {Nine} {Neotropical} {Forest} {Landscapes}

Large tropical trees store significant amounts of carbon in woody components and their distribution plays an important role in forest carbon stocks and dynamics. Here, we explore the properties of a new Lidar derived index, large tree canopy area (LCA) defined as the area occupied by canopy above a reference height. We hypothesize that this simple measure of forest structure representing the crown area of large canopy trees could consistently explain the landscape variations of forest volume and aboveground biomass (AGB) across a range of climate and edaphic conditions. To test this hypothesis, we assembled a unique dataset of high-resolution airborne Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) and ground inventory data in nine undisturbed old growth Neotropical forests. We found that the LCA for trees greater than 27 m (∼ 25–30 m) in height and at least 100 m2 crown size in a unit area (1 ha), explains more than 75 % of total forest volume variations, irrespective of the forest biogeographic conditions. When weighted by average wood density of the stand, LCA can be used as an unbiased estimator of AGB across all sites (R2 = 0.78, RMSE = 46.02 Mg ha−1, bias = 0.76 Mg ha−1). Unlike other Lidar derived metrics with complex nonlinear relations to biomass, the relationship between LCA and AGB is linear. A comparison with tree inventories across the study sites indicates that LCA correlates best with the crown area (or basal area) of trees with diameter {\textbackslash}textgreater 50 cm. The spatial invariance of the LCA–AGB relationship across the Neotropics suggests a remarkable regularity of forest structure across the landscape and a new technique for systematic monitoring of large trees for their contribution to AGB and changes associated with selective logging, tree mortality, and other types of forest disturbance and dynamics.


Canopy {Area} of {Large} {Trees} {Explains} {Aboveground} {Biomass} {Variations} across {Nine} {Neotropical} {Forest} {Landscapes}
Publication Type
Journal Article
Year of Publication
Biogeosciences Discussions
Date Published
FORET Paracou
Submitted on 21 October 2021