Field methods for sampling tree height for tropical forest biomass estimation
de Canniere, C
Methods in Ecology and Evolution
© 2018 The Authors. Methods in Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Quantifying the relationship between tree diameter and height is a key component of efforts to estimate biomass and carbon stocks in tropical forests. Although substantial site-to-site variation in height-diameter allometries has been documented, the time consuming nature of measuring all tree heights in an inventory plot means that most studies do not include height, or else use generic pan-tropical or regional allometric equations to estimate height. Using a pan-tropical dataset of 73 plots where at least 150 trees had in-field ground-based height measurements, we examined how the number of trees sampled affects the performance of locally derived height-diameter allometries, and evaluated the performance of different methods for sampling trees for height measurement. Using cross-validation, we found that allometries constructed with just 20 locally measured values could often predict tree height with lower error than regional or climate-based allometries (mean reduction in prediction error = 0.46 m). The predictive performance of locally derived allometries improved with sample size, but with diminishing returns in performance gains when more than 40 trees were sampled. Estimates of stand-level biomass produced using local allometries to estimate tree height show no over- or under-estimation bias when compared with biomass estimates using field measured heights. We evaluated five strategies to sample trees for height measurement, and found that sampling strategies that included measuring the heights of the ten largest diameter trees in a plot outperformed (in terms of resulting in local height-diameter models with low height prediction error) entirely random or diameter size-class stratified approaches. Our results indicate that even limited sampling of heights can be used to refine height-diameter allometries. We recommend aiming for a conservative threshold of sampling 50 trees per location for height measurement, and including the ten trees with the largest diameter in this sample.
This paper is a product of the RAINFOR, AfriTRON and T-FORCES networks, for which we are indebted to the hundreds of institutions, field assistants and local communities across many countries that have supported and hosted fieldwork. The three networks have been supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Urgency Grants and NERC Consortium Grants “AMAZONICA” (NE/F005806/1), “TROBIT” (NE/D005590/1) and “BIO-RED” (NE/N012542/1), a NERC New Investigators Grant, a European Research Council grant (“Tropical Forests in the Changing Earth System”), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (283080, “GEOCARBON”; 282664, “AMAZALERT”), the Royal Society and Gabon's National Parks Agency (ANPN). R.J.W.B. is funded by a NERC research fellowship (grant ref: NE/I021160/1). S.L.L. was supported by a Royal Society University Research Fellowship, ERC Advanced Grant and a Phillip Leverhulme Prize. O.L.P. is supported by an ERC Advanced Grant and a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award. L.F.B. was supported by a NERC studentship, RGS-IBG Henrietta Hutton Grant and Royal Society Dudley Stamp Award. R.H. and M.C. were supported through the long-term research development project no. RVO 67985939 and a KBFSC research fellowship (2011, to R.H.). M. Svátek was funded by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic (grant number INGO II LG15051). We thank Georgia Pickavance for assistance with database curation, and Natacha Nssi Bengone, Sylvester Chenikan, Eric Chezeaux, Armandu Daniels, Jean-Louis Doucet, Kath Jeffery, Edi Mirmanto, Abel Monteagudo-Mendoza, Faustin Mpanya Lukasu, Reuben Nilus, Guido Pardo, Lourens Poorter, Sylvester Tan, Marisol Toledo, Armando Torres-Lezama, John Tshibamba Mukendi, Richard Tshombe, Geertje van der Heijden, Lee White, Hannsjoerg Woell and John Woods, Gabon's National Parks Agency (ANPN), the Forest Development Authority of Liberia and Wildlife Conservation Society-Democratic Republic of Congo for assistance with access to datasets. We thank an anonymous reviewer for constructive comments on this manuscript.
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First published: 13 February 2018