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Scale-dependence of aboveground carbon accumulation in secondary forests of Panama: A test of the intermediate peak hypothesis

Citation
Mascaro J, Asner GP, Dent D, DeWalt SJ & Denslow JS (2012) Scale-dependence of aboveground carbon accumulation in secondary forests of Panama: A test of the intermediate peak hypothesis, Forest Ecology and Management, 276, pp. 62-70.

Abstract
Accumulation of aboveground carbon is one of the most important services provided by tropical secondary forests-a land-cover type that is increasing in importance globally. Carbon accumulates rapidly for the first 20 years of succession, but few studies have considered forests older than 20 years, and the available data do not yield a consistent pattern. Two alternative hypotheses have been proposed: (1) an asymptotic increase, with the highest carbon stocks occurring in the oldest stands, and (2) an intermediate peak, caused by roughly synchronous tree maturity (and thus high carbon stocks) after which time treefall gaps cause carbon stocks to regress. Here we revisited a well-studied tropical moist forest chronosequence in Barro Colorado Nature Monument, Central Panama, consisting of 35, 55, 85, and 115-year-old stands, as well as old-growth stands, to determine whether past evidence for the intermediate peak hypothesis was influenced by the spatial limitations of the field plots used to assess forest structure. We used airborne LiDAR (light detection and ranging) to measure carbon stocks at the scale of the original transects (0.16 ha), in surrounding forest of the same age (up to 20 ha), and at a landscape scale incorporating thousands of hectares not previously measured. We also compared forest structure as measured in three dimensions by LiDAR, considering vertical and horizontal variation in canopy organization, as well as the abundance of treefall gaps. Our results suggested a strong scale-dependence of aboveground carbon accumulation, supporting the intermediate peak hypothesis at the fine scale of the 0.16-ha transects, but an asymptotic model at the landscape scale incorporating thousands of hectares. Further analyses of forest structure suggest that both the limitations of small plots and intrinsic scaling of forest structure and carbon dynamics account for the scale-dependence of aboveground carbon accumulation in this secondary forest matrix.

Keywords
Carbon storage; Carnegie Airborne Observatory; Forest structure; LiDAR; Treefall gaps; Tropical secondary forests

Subject headings
Atmospheric carbon dioxide Environmental aspects; Trees Effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide on

StatusPublished
AuthorsMascaro Joseph, Asner Gregory P, Dent Daisy, DeWalt Saara J, Denslow Julie S
Publication date15/07/2012
PublisherElsevier
ISSN 0378-1127
LanguageEnglish

Journal
Forest Ecology and Management: Volume 276 (JUL 15 2012)

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