Height – Diameter allometry in South Africa’s indigenous high forests: Assessing generic models performance and function forms

Height-diameter equations are essential to understand forest dynamics and estimate forest biomass and carbon stocks. Most existing large scale height-diameter equations in Africa are based on data from rain forests, and their application to species from southern and eastern parts of Africa can result in large estimation error. Using a dataset of 1130 trees measured for their diameter and height from four forest sites with varying environmental characteristics across South Africa, we (1) evaluated the deviations in height estimated from existing generalized height-diameter equations; (2) compared the predictive ability of eight function forms applied to develop heightdiameter models; (3) tested for sites and species effects on tree height-diameter allometries; and (4) developed country scale and site-specific height-diameter models in South Africa natural forests. The existing continental height-diameter equations significantly overestimated tree height in South Africa. The deviations associated with these equations, though varied with sites, remained substantially large and increased with increasing tree diameter. The power function outperformed the other theoretical functions forms and proved to be the most suitable for height-diameter allometry at country scale. As expected, forest sites and species respectively had significant effects on height-diameter allometry, suggesting further need for site and functional groups-specific height-diameter relationships. The effect of site was shown by higher scaling allometric exponents at warmer and wetter sites. On the other hand, species potentially occupying same canopy niche seem to have similar allometric relationships. Our results reveal that tree height in South Africa is more accurately predicted using locally developed models. Site-specific and country scale allometric models were thus documented for future use.
Date of publication: 
Region Focus: 
Southern Africa
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Project sponsor: 
Stellenbosch University; EU CARE4C RISE Project
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