Efficacy of generic allometric equations for estimating biomass: A test in Japanese natural forests

Masae I. Ishihara, Hajime Utsugi, Hiroyuki Tanouchi, Masahiro Aiba, Hiroko Kurokawa, Yusuke Onoda, Masahiro Nagano, Toru Umehara, Makoto Ando, Rie Miyata, Tsutom Hiura

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Accurate estimation of tree and forest biomass is key to evaluating forest ecosystem functions and the global carbon cycle. Allometric equations that estimate tree biomass from a set of predictors, such as stemdiameter and tree height, are commonly used.Most allometric equations are site specific, usually developed from a small number of trees harvested in a small area, and are either species specific or ignore interspecific differences in allometry. Due to lack of site-specific allometries, local equations are often applied to sites for which they were not originally developed (foreign sites), sometimes leading to large errors in biomass estimates. In this study, we developed generic allometric equations for aboveground biomass and component (stem, branch, leaf, and root) biomass using large, compiled data sets of 1203 harvested trees belonging to 102 species (60 deciduous angiosperm, 32 evergreen angiosperm, and 10 evergreen gymnosperm species) from 70 boreal, temperate, and subtropical natural forests in Japan. The best generic equations provided better biomass estimates than did local equations that were applied to foreign sites. The best generic equations included explanatory variables that represent interspecific differences in allometry in addition to stemdiameter, reducing error by 4-12% compared to the generic equations that did not include the interspecific difference. Different explanatory variables were selected for different components. For aboveground and stem biomass, the best generic equations had species-specific wood specific gravity as an explanatory variable. For branch, leaf, and root biomass, the best equations had functional types (deciduous angiosperm, evergreen angiosperm, and evergreen gymnosperm) instead of functional traits (wood specific gravity or leaf mass per area), suggesting importance of other traits in addition to these traits, such as canopy and root architecture. Inclusion of tree height in addition to stemdiameter improved the performance of the generic equation only for stembiomass and had no apparent effect on aboveground, branch, leaf, and root biomass at the site level. The development of a generic allometric equation taking account of interspecific differences is an effective approach for accurately estimating aboveground and component biomass in boreal, temperate, and subtropical natural forests.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1433-1446
    Number of pages14
    JournalEcological Applications
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jul 1


    • Aboveground biomass
    • Allometry
    • Carbon stocks
    • Database
    • Functional traits
    • Functional types
    • Leaf mass per area
    • Model selection
    • Natural forests in Japan
    • Root biomass
    • Wood density

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology


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