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Above-ground biomass and productivity in a rain forest of eastern South America

  • Jérôme Chave (a1), Jean Olivier (a1), Frans Bongers (a2), Patrick Châtelet (a3), Pierre-Michel Forget (a4), Peter van der Meer (a2) (a5), Natalia Norden (a1), Bernard Riéra (a4) and Pierre Charles-Dominique (a3)...

The dynamics of tropical forest woody plants was studied at the Nouragues Field Station, central French Guiana. Stem density, basal area, above-ground biomass and above-ground net primary productivity, including the contribution of litterfall, were estimated from two large permanent census plots of 12 and 10 ha, established on contrasting soil types, and censused twice, first in 1992–1994, then again in 2000–2002. Mean stem density was 512 stems ha−1 and basal area, 30 m2 ha−1. Stem mortality rate ranged between 1.51% and 2.06% y−1. In both plots, stem density decreased over the study period. Using a correlation between wood density and wood hardness directly measured by a Pilodyn wood tester, we found that the mean wood density was 0.63 g cm−3, 12% smaller than the mean of wood density estimated from the literature values for the species occurring in our plot. Above-ground biomass ranged from 356 to 398 Mg ha−1 (oven-dry mass), and it increased over the census period. Leaf biomass was 6.47 Mg ha−1. Our total estimate of aboveground net primary productivity was 8.81 MgC ha−1 y−1 (in carbon units), not accounting for loss to herbivory, branchfalls, or biogenic volatile organic compounds, which may altogether account for an additional 1 MgC ha−1 y−1. Coarse wood productivity (stem growth plus recruitment) contributed to 4.16 MgC ha−1 y−1. Litterfall contributed to 4.65 MgC ha−1 y−1 with 3.16 MgC ha−1 y−1 due to leaves, 1.10 MgC ha−1 y−1 to twigs, and 0.39 MgC ha−1 y−1 to fruits and flowers. The increase in above-ground biomass for both trees and lianas is consistent with the hypothesis of a shift in the functioning of Amazonian rain forests driven by environmental changes, although alternative hypotheses such as a recovery from past disturbances cannot be ruled out at our site, as suggested by the observed decrease in stem density.

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Journal of Tropical Ecology
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