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Size-dependent intraspecific variation in wood traits has little impact on aboveground carbon estimates in a tropical forest landscape

Citation

Chanthorn, Wirong et al. (2022), Size-dependent intraspecific variation in wood traits has little impact on aboveground carbon estimates in a tropical forest landscape, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.9kd51c5m4

Abstract

There is increasing evidence that intraspecific trait variation plays a role in governing rates of ecosystem functioning. While wood traits such as wood specific gravity (WSG) and wood carbon concentration (WCC) are key drivers of forest aboveground carbon (AGC) stocks, the sources of intraspecific variation in these wood traits and the consequences of this variation on AGC are poorly known, especially in the tropics.

Here, we investigated intraspecific variation in wood specific gravity (WSG) and wood carbon concentration (WCC) from 556 individual trees belonging to 15 species that well characterize different successional stages of seasonal evergreen forests in Southeast Asia. Specifically, we tested the contribution of individual or species characteristics (tree size, growth rate and regeneration guilds) and local environmental conditions (topographic wetness index and successional stages) to intraspecific variation in WSG and WCC, and assessed the consequences of intraspecific variation in these wood traits on AGC estimates in 14 permanent forest plots established along a successional gradient in Khao Yai National park, Thailand.

We found that tree size was the main driver of intraspecific variation in WSG and WCC as tree sizes increased from 10−100 cm in diameter, WSG increased by 7.3%, while WCC increased by 2.4% in heartwood, 1.6% and 2.7% in sapwood without and with volatile carbon included. There was no effect of the topographic wetness and other local environment condition in wood traits led to a slight overestimation of AGC in young secondary forests (+0.09 to +1.29%) and a small underestimation in older forests (-0.86 to -2.87%), but overall AGC estimates (13 of 14 forest plots) remained within error margins (the 95% interval).

Our study provides evidence that tree size variation translates into intraspecific variability in wood traits, whereas local environmental conditions related to topography successional stages had no effect on wood trait variability. While size-dependent variation in WSG and WCC have largely been undocumented and thus ignored in forest carbon assessment approaches, we highlight that it has a limited impact on AGC estimates, indicating that it does not invalidate current forest carbon stock estimation approaches. 

Funding

National Science and Technology Development Agency, Award: SCA-CO-2561-7146TH

Thailand Research Fund, Award: RSA6180050

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

ANR, Award: ANR-17-EGAS-0002-01