Allometric models for aboveground biomass estimation of small trees and shrubs in African savanna ecosystems


Quantification of plant biomass and carbon in ecosystems is critical for climate change mitigation. For large trees in various ecosystems, allometric models for estimating biomass have been developed but few biomass equations exist for small trees and shrubby vegetation. Allometric above-ground biomass (AGB) models are needed for small trees and shrubs in order to improve the quantification of biomass, particularly for savanna ecosystems, where small trees and shrubs comprise a significant portion of the biomass. In this study we have developed species-specific and multi-species allometric models for biomass estimation of small tree species and shrubs in the savanna ecosystem of Lake Mburo National Park in South Western Uganda. For our models we selected 27 small tree species (N = 403 individuals) and 12 shrub species (N = 177) common in savanna ecosystems for destructive sampling. We developed species-specific and multi-species allometric AGB models to provide estimates of AGB using specific biometric variables recorded for the small trees (i.e. species, DBH, height and crown area), and shrubs (species, height and crown area). We found that crown area was the best single predictor of species-specific AGB for small trees and for species-specific and multi-species models for shrubs. Species-specific models had the best predictive capacity of AGB compared to multi-species biomass models for small trees and shrubs. Multiple-variable models had the best predictive capacity of AGB in both species-specific and multi-species modelling compared to single-variable models. Based on these findings we conclude that the evaluation of carbon stocks of tropical savanna ecosystems should use multi-variable species-specific models for AGB estimation at the individual level, and multi-species models for AGB at the ecosystem level.