Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Altitudinal filtering of large-tree species explains above-ground biomass variation in an Atlantic Central African rain forest

  • Christelle Gonmadje (a1) (a2), Nicolas Picard (a3), Sylvie Gourlet-Fleury (a1), Maxime Réjou-Méchain (a4) (a5), Vincent Freycon (a1), Terry Sunderland (a6), Doyle McKey (a7) and Charles Doumenge (a1)...

Patterns in above-ground biomass of tropical forests over short altitudinal gradients are poorly known. The aim of this study was to investigate the variation of above-ground biomass with altitude in old-growth forests and determine the importance of changes in floristic composition as a cause of this variation. We used a dataset from 15 1-ha permanent plots established from lowland (200 m asl) to submontane forests (900 m asl) in the Ngovayang Massif, south-western Cameroon. We analysed variation over altitude in two specific functional traits, the potential maximum tree height and the wood density. Forest above-ground biomass decreased from 500–600 Mg ha−1 in lowland plots to around 260 Mg ha−1 at the highest altitudes. The contribution to above-ground biomass of large-tree species (dbh ≥ 70 cm) decreased with altitude, while the contribution of smaller trees was constant. Contribution of the Fabaceae subfamily Caesalpinioideae decreased with altitude, while those of Clusiaceae, Phyllanthaceae and Burseraceae increased. While potential maximum tree height significantly decreased, wood specific gravity displayed no trend along the gradient. Finally, the decrease in above-ground biomass along the short altitudinal gradient can be at least partially explained by a shift in species composition, with large-tree species being filtered out at the highest altitudes. These results suggest that global change could lead to significant shifts in the properties of montane forests over time.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author. Email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

L. F. ALVES , S. A. VIEIRA , M. A. SCARANELLO , P. B. CAMARGO , F. A. SANTOS , C. A. JOLY & L. A. MARTINELLI 2010. Forest structure and live aboveground biomass variation along an elevational gradient of tropical Atlantic moist forest (Brazil). Forest Ecology and Management 260:679691.

P. S. ASHTON 2003. Floristic zonation of tree communities on wet tropical mountains revisited. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 6:87104.

A. BACCINI , S. J. GOETZ , W. S. WALKER , N. T. LAPORTE , M. SUN , D. SULLA-MENASHE , J. HACKLER , P. S. A. BECK , R. DUBAYAH , M. A. FRIEDL , S. SAMANTA & R. A. HOUGHTON 2012. Estimated carbon dioxide emissions from tropical deforestation improved by carbon-density maps. Nature Climate Change 2:182185.

T. R. BAKER , O. L. PHILLIPS , Y. MALHI , S. ALMEIDA , L. ARROYO , A. DI FIORE , T. ERWIN , T. J. KILLEEN , S. G. LAURANCE & W. F. LAURANCE 2004. Variation in wood density determines spatial patterns in Amazonian forest biomass. Global Change Biology 10:545562.

C. BARALOTO , S. RABAUD , Q. MOLTO , L. BLANC , C. FORTUNEL , B. HERAULT , N. DAVILA , I. MESONES , M. RIOS & E. VALDERRAMA 2011. Disentangling stand and environmental correlates of aboveground biomass in Amazonian forests. Global Change Biology 17:26772688.


J. CHAVE , D. COOMES , S. JANSEN , S. L. LEWIS , N. G. SWENSON & A. E. ZANNE 2009. Towards a worldwide wood economics spectrum. Ecology Letters 12:351366.

J. CHAVE , M. RÉJOU-MÉCHAIN , A. BÚRQUEZ , E. CHIDUMAYO , M. S. COLGAN , W. B. DELITTI , A. DUQUE , T. EID , P. M. FEARNSIDE , R. C. GOODMAN , M. HENRY , A. MARTÍNEZ-YRÍZAR , H. C. MULLER-LANDAU , R. PÉLISSIER , P. PLOTON , J. SALDARRIAGA & G. VIEILLEDENT 2014. Improved allometric models to estimate the aboveground biomass of tropical trees. Global Change Biology 20:31773190.

D. A. CLARK 2004. Sources or sinks? The responses of tropical forests to current and future climate and atmospheric composition. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 359:477491.

H. CULMSEE , C. LEUSCHNER , G. MOSER & R. PITOPANG 2010. Forest aboveground biomass along an elevational transect in Sulawesi, Indonesia, and the role of Fagaceae in tropical montane rain forests. Journal of Biogeography 37:960974.

M. DAY , C. BALDAUF , E. RUTISHAUSER & T. C. SUNDERLAND 2014. Relationships between tree species diversity and above-ground biomass in Central African rainforests: implications for REDD. Environmental Conservation 41:6472.

C. V. DE CASTILHO , W. E. MAGNUSSON , R. N. O. DE ARAÚJO , R. C. LUIZAO , F. J. LUIZAO , A. P. LIMA & N. HIGUCHI 2006. Variation in aboveground tree live biomass in a central Amazonian Forest: effects of soil and topography. Forest Ecology and Management 234:8596.

G. G. DOSSA , E. PAUDEL , J. FUJINUMA , H. YU , W. CHUTIPONG , Y. ZHANG , S. PAZ & R. D. HARRISON 2013. Factors determining forest diversity and biomass on a tropical volcano, Mt. Rinjani, Lombok, Indonesia. PLoS ONE 8:e67720.

A. ENSSLIN , G. RUTTEN , U. POMMER , R. ZIMMERMANN , A. HEMP & M. FISCHER 2015. Effects of elevation and land use on the biomass of trees, shrubs and herbs at Mount Kilimanjaro. Ecosphere 6:115.

T. R. FELDPAUSCH , J. LLOYD , S. L. LEWIS , R. J. BRIENEN , M. GLOOR , A. MONTEAGUDO MENDOZA , G. LOPEZ-GONZALEZ , L. BANIN , K. ABU SALIM , K. AFFUM-BAFFOE , M. VÁSQUEZ , E. VILANOVA , L. WHITE , S. WILLCOCK , H. WOELL & O. L. PHILLIPS 2012. Tree height integrated into pantropical forest biomass estimates. Biogeosciences 9:33813403.

J. B. FISHER , Y. MALHI , I. C. TORRES , D. B. METCALFE , M. J. VAN DE WEG , P. MEIR , J. E. SILVA-ESPEJO & W. H. HUASCO 2013. Nutrient limitation in rainforests and cloud forests along a 3,000-m elevation gradient in the Peruvian Andes. Oecologia 172:889902.

C. A. J. GIRARDIN , Y. MALHI , L. ARAGAO , M. MAMANI , W. HUARACA HUASCO , L. DURAND , K. J. FEELEY , J. RAPP , J. SILVA-ESPEJO , M. SILMAN , N. SALINAS & R. J. WHITTAKER 2010. Net primary productivity allocation and cycling of carbon along a tropical forest elevational transect in the Peruvian Andes. Global Change Biology 16:31763192.

C. A. GIRARDIN , W. FARFAN-RIOS , K. GARCIA , K. J. FEELEY , P. M. JØRGENSEN , A. A. MURAKAMI , L. CAYOLA PÉREZ , R. SEIDEL , N. PANIAGUA , A. F. FUENTES CLAROS , M. MACÍAJ , T. J. KILLEEN & Y. MALHI 2014. Spatial patterns of above-ground structure, biomass and composition in a network of six Andean elevation transects. Plant Ecology and Diversity 7:161171.

S. GOURLET-FLEURY , V. ROSSI , M. RÉJOU-MÉCHAIN , V. FREYCON , A. FAYOLLE , L. SAINT-ANDRE , G. CORNU , J. GERARD , J-M. SARRAILH , O. FLORES , F. BAYA , A. BILLAND , N. FAUVET , M. GALLY , M. HENRY , D. HUBERT , A. PASQUIER & N. PICARD 2011. Environmental filtering of dense-wooded species controls above-ground biomass stored in African moist forests. Journal of Ecology 99:981990.

R. A. HOUGHTON 2005. Aboveground forest biomass and the global carbon balance. Global Change Biology 11:945958.

M. KESSLER 2002. The elevational gradient of Andean plant endemism: varying influences of taxon-specific traits and topography at different taxonomic levels. Journal of Biogeography 29:11591165.

D. A. KING , S. J. DAVIES , S. TAN & N. S. NOOR 2006. The role of wood density and stem support costs in the growth and mortality of tropical trees. Journal of Ecology 94:670680.

C. LEUSCHNER , G. MOSER , C. BERTSCH , M. RÖDERSTEIN & D. HERTEL 2007. Large altitudinal increase in tree root/shoot ratio in tropical mountain forests of Ecuador. Basic and Applied Ecology 8:219230.

S. L. LEWIS , G. LOPEZ-GONZALEZ , B. SONKÉ , K. AFFUM-BAFFOE , T. R. BAKER , L. O. OJO , O. L. PHILLIPS , J. M. REITSMA , L. WHITE , J. A. COMISKEY , K. M-N. DJUIKOUO , C. E. N EWANGO , T. R. FELDPAUSCH , A. C. HAMILTON , M. GLOOR , T. HART , A. HLADIK , J. LLOYD , J. C. LOVETT , J-R. MAKANA , Y. MALHI , F. M. MBAGO , J. HENRY , H. J. NDANGALASI , J. PEACOCK , K. S.-H. PEH , D. SHEIL , T. SUNDERLAND , M. D. SWAINE , J. TAPLIN , D. TAYLOR , S. C. THOMAS , R. VOTERE & H. WÖLL 2009. Increasing carbon storage in intact African tropical forests. Nature 457:10031006.

S. L. LEWIS , B. SONKÉ , T. C. H. SUNDERLAND , S. BEGNE , G. M. F. VAN DER HEIJDEN , O. L. PHILLIPS , K. AFFUM-BAFFOE , T. R. BAKER , L. BANIN , J-F. BASTIN , H. BEECKMAN , P. BOECKX , J. BOGAERT , C. DE CANNIÈRE , E. CHEZEAUX , J. C. CLARK , M. COLLINS , G. DJAGBLETEY , K. M-N. DJUIKOUO , V. DROISSART , J-L. DOUCET , C. E. N. EWANGO , S. FAUSET , T. R. FELDPAUSCH , J. LLOYD , J. C. LOVETT , T. HART , L. O. OJO , A. HLADIK , J.-R. MAKANA , Y. MALHI , K. S.-H. PEH & H. VERBEECK 2013. Aboveground biomass and structure of 260 African tropical forests. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 368:20120295.

D. LIEBERMAN , M. LIEBERMAN , R. PERALTA & G. S. HARTSHORN 1996. Tropical forest structure and composition on a large-scale altitudinal gradient in Costa Rica. Journal of Ecology 84:137152.

Y. MALHI & O. L. PHILLIPS 2004. Tropical forests and global atmospheric change: a synthesis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 359:549555.

Y. MALHI , T. R. BAKER , O. L. PHILLIPS , S. ALMEIDA , E. ALVAREZ , L. ARROYO , J. CHAVE , C. I. CZIMCZIK , A. D. FIORE , N. HIGUCHI , A. T. LEZAMA , R. V. MARTÍNEZ , J. TERBORGH , B. VINCETI & J. LLOYD 2004. The above-ground coarse wood productivity of 104 Neotropical forest plots. Global Change Biology 10:563591.

A. R. MARSHALL , S. WILLCOCK , P. J. PLATTS , J. C. LOVETT , A. BALMFORD , N. D. BURGESS , J. E. LATHAM , P. K. T. MUNISHI , R. SALTER , D. D. SHIRIMA & S. L. LEWIS 2012. Measuring and modelling above-ground carbon and tree allometry along a tropical elevation gradient. Biological Conservation 154:2033.

E. T. MITCHARD , T. R. FELDPAUSCH , R. J. BRIENEN , G. LOPEZ-GONZALEZ , A. MONTEAGUDO , T. R. BAKER , S. L. LEWIS , J. LLOYD , C. A. QUESADA , M. GLOOR , H. HANS TER STEEGE , P. MEIR , E. ALVAREZ , A. ARAUJO-MURAKAMI , L. E. O. C. ARAGÃO , L. ARROYO , G. GERARDO AYMARD , O. BANKI , D. BONAL , S. BROWN , F. I. BROWN , C. E. CERÓN , V. C. MOSCOSO , J. CHAVE , J. A. COMISKEY , Y. MALHI & O. L. PHILLIPS 2014. Markedly divergent estimates of Amazon forest carbon density from ground plots and satellites. Global Ecology and Biogeography 23:935946.

Q. MOLTO , V. ROSSI & L. BLANC 2013. Error propagation in biomass estimation in tropical forests. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 4:175183.

G. MOSER , D. HERTEL & C. LEUSCHNER 2007. Altitudinal change in LAI and stand leaf biomass in tropical montane forests: a transect study in Ecuador and a pan-tropical meta-analysis. Ecosystems 10:924935.

G. MOSER , M. RÖDERSTEIN , N. SOETHE , D. HERTEL & C. LEUSCHNER 2008. Altitudinal changes in stand structure and biomass allocation of tropical mountain forests in relation to microclimate and soil chemistry. Pp. 229242 in E. Beck , J. Bendix , I. Kottke , F. Makeschin & R. Mosandl (eds). Gradients in a tropical mountain ecosystem of Ecuador. Springer, Berlin and Heidelberg.

G. MOSER , C. LEUSCHNER , D. HERTEL , S. GRAEFE , N. SOETHE & S. IOST 2011. Elevation effects on the carbon budget of tropical mountain forests (S Ecuador): the role of the belowground compartment. Global Change Biology 17:22112226.

G. D. PAOLI , L. M. CURRAN & J. W. F. SLIK 2008. Soil nutrients affect spatial patterns of aboveground biomass and emergent tree density in southwestern Borneo. Oecologia 155:287299.

N. PÉREZ-HARGUINDEGUY , S. DÍAZ , E. GARNIER , S. LAVOREL , H. POORTER , P. JAUREGUIBERRY , M. S. BRET-HARTE , W. K. CORNWELL , J. M. CRAINE , D. E. GURVICH , C. STAVER , S. AQUINO & C. CORNELISSEN 2013. New handbook for standardised measurement of plant functional traits worldwide. Australian Journal of Botany 61:167234.

S. N. RAI & J. PROCTOR 1986. Ecological studies on four rainforests in Karnataka, India: I. Environment, structure, floristics and biomass. Journal of Ecology 74:439454.

M. RÉJOU-MÉCHAIN , O. FLORES , R. PÉLISSIER , A. FAYOLLE , N. FAUVET & S. GOURLET-FLEURY 2014. Tropical tree assembly depends on the interactions between successional and soil filtering processes. Global Ecology and Biogeography 23:14401449.

S. S. SAATCHI , N. L. HARRIS , S. BROWN , M. LEFSKY , E. T. MITCHARD , W. SALAS , B. R. ZUTTA , W. BUERMANN , S. L. LEWIS & S. HAGEN 2011. Benchmark map of forest carbon stocks in tropical regions across three continents. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108:98999904.

B. S. SCHAMP & L. W. AARSSEN 2009. The assembly of forest communities according to maximum species height along resource and disturbance gradients. Oikos 118:564572.

P. SIST , L. MAZZEI , L. BLANC & E. RUTISHAUSER 2014. Large trees as key elements of carbon storage and dynamics after selective logging in the Eastern Amazon. Forest Ecology and Management 318:103109.

J. W. F. SLIK 2004. El Nino droughts and their effects on tree species composition and diversity in tropical rain forests. Oecologia 141:114120.

J. W. F. SLIK , C. S. BERNARD , F. C. BREMAN , M. VAN BEEK , A. SALIM & D. SHEIL 2008. Wood density as a conservation tool: quantification of disturbance and identification of conservation-priority areas in tropical forests. Conservation Biology 22:12991308.

J. W. F. SLIK , S.-I. AIBA , F. Q. BREARLEY , C. H. CANNON , O. FORSHED , K. KITAYAMA , H. NAGAMASU , R. NILUS , J. PAYNE & G. PAOLI 2010. Environmental correlates of tree biomass, basal area, wood specific gravity and stem density gradients in Borneo's tropical forests. Global Ecology and Biogeography 19:5060.

J. W. F. SLIK , G. PAOLI , K. MCGUIRE , I. AMARAL , J. BARROSO , M. BASTIAN , L. BLANC , F. BONGERS , P. BOUNDJA , C. CLARK , M. COLLINS , G. DAUBY , Y. DING , J-L. DOUCET , E. ELER , L. FERREIRA , O. FORSHED , G. FREDRIKSSON J-F. GILLET , D. HARRIS , M. LEAL , Y. LAUMONIER , Y. MALHI , A. MANSOR , E. MARTIN , ARAUJO-MURAKAMI, A. KAZUKI MIYAMOTO , H. NAGAMASU , L. POORTER , J. POULSEN , J. REITSMA , D. SHEIL , H. TER STEEGE , T. SUNDERLAND , E. SUZUKI , S. WICH , H. WÖLL , T. YONE DA , R. ZANG , M.-G. ZHANG & N. ZWEIFEL 2013. Large trees drive forest aboveground biomass variation in moist lowland forests across the tropics. Global Ecology and Biogeography 22:12611271.

D. V. SPRACKLEN & R. RIGHELATO 2014. Tropical montane forests are a larger than expected global carbon store. Biogeosciences 11:27412754.

M. TAKYU , Y. KUBOTA , S. AIBA , T. SEINO & T. NISHIMURA 2005. Pattern of changes in species diversity, structure and dynamics of forest ecosystems along latitudinal gradients in East Asia. Ecological Research 20:287296.

E. V. J. TANNER , P. M. VITOUSEK & E. CUEVAS 1998. Experimental investigation of nutrient limitation of forest growth on wet tropical mountains. Ecology 79:1022.

M. UNGER , J. HOMEIER & C. LEUSCHNER 2012. Effects of soil chemistry on tropical forest biomass and productivity at different elevations in the equatorial Andes. Oecologia 170:263274.

M. G. VAN NIEUWSTADT & D. SHEIL 2005. Drought, fire and tree survival in a Borneo rain forest, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Journal of Ecology 93:191201.

C. VIOLLE , M. L. NAVAS , D. VILE , E. KAZAKOU , C. FORTUNEL , I. HUMMEL & E. GARNIER 2007. Let the concept of trait be functional! Oikos 116:882892.

M. WESTOBY , D. S. FALSTER , A. T. MOLES , P. A. VESK & I. J. WRIGHT 2002. Plant ecological strategies: some leading dimensions of variation between species. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 33:125159.

A. E. ZANNE , M. WESTOBY , D. S. FALSTER , D. D. ACKERLY , S. R. LOARIE , S. E. ARNOLD & D. A. COOMES 2010. Angiosperm wood structure: global patterns in vessel anatomy and their relation to wood density and potential conductivity. American Journal of Botany 97:207215.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Tropical Ecology
  • ISSN: 0266-4674
  • EISSN: 1469-7831
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-tropical-ecology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 18
Total number of PDF views: 83 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 486 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 18th January 2017 - 21st September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.