Large trees drive forest aboveground biomass variation in moist lowland forests across the tropics


JW Ferry Slik, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Gary Paoli, Daemeter Consulting, Bogor
Krista McGuire, Barnard College of Columbia University
Ieda Amaral, Tropical Ecology Assessment Monitoring (TEAM) Network, Brazil
Jorcely Barroso, Universidade Federal do Acre
Meredith Bastian, Philadelphia Zoo
Lilian Blanc, CIRAD, Embrapa-Belém, Brazil
Frans Bongers, Wageningen University
Patrick Boundja, Tropical Ecology Assessment Monitoring (TEAM) Network, Republic of Congo
Connie Clark, Duke University
Murray Collins, Zoological Society of London
Gilles Dauby, Universite Libre de Bruxelles
Yi Ding, State Forestry Administration, Beijing
Jean-Louis Doucet, Université de Liège
Eduardo Eler, Tropical Ecology Assessment Monitoring (TEAM) Network, Brazil
Leandro Ferreira, Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, Belem, Brazil
Olle Forshed, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Solna, Sweden
Gabriella Fredriksson, University of Amsterdam
ean-Francois Gillet, Université de Liège
David Harris, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Miguel Leal, Wildlife Conservation Society, Kabale, Uganda
Yves Laumonier, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor
Yadvinder Malhi, University of Oxford
Asyraf Mansor, Universiti Sains Malaysia
Emanuel Martin, Udzungwa Mountains National Park
Kazuki Miyamoto, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute (FFPRI), Kochi, Japan
Alejandro Araujo-Murakami, Universidad Autónoma Gabriel Rene Moreno
Hidetoshi Nagamasu, Kyoto University
Reuben Nilus, Forest Research Center, Sandakan
Eddy Nurtjahya, Universitas Bangka Belitung
Átila Oliveira, Tropical Ecology Assessment Monitoring (TEAM) Network, Brazil
Onrizal Onrizal, Universitas Sumatera Utara
Alexander Parada-Gutierrez, Universidad Autónoma Gabriel Rene Moreno
Andrea Permana, Universitat Zürich
Lourens Poorter, Wageningen University
John Poulsen, Duke University
Hirma Ramirez-Angulo, Universidad de Los Andes - Venezuela
Jan Reitsma, Bureau Waardenburg bv
Francesco Rovero, Tropical Biodiversity Section, Museo delle Scienze, Italy
Andes Rozak, Indonesian Institute of Sciences
Douglas Sheil, Southern Cross UniversityFollow
Javier Silva-Espejo, Universidad de San Abad del Cusco
Marcos Silveira, Universidade Federal do Acre
Wilson Spironelo, Tropical Ecology Assessment Monitoring (TEAM) Network, Brazil
Hans ter Steege, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden
Tariq Stevart, Missouri Botanical Garden, Africa
Gilberto Enrique Navarro-Aguilar, Universidad Nacional de la Amazonia Peruana
Terry Sunderland, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor
Eizi Suzuki, Kagoshima University
Jianwei Tang, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Ida Theilade, University of Copenhagen
Geertje van der Heijden, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Johan van Valkenburg, Wageningen University
Tran Van Do, Kyoto University
Emilio Vilanova, Universidad de los Andes
Vincent Vos, Universidad Autonoma de Beni
Serge Wich, Liverpool John Moores University
Hannsjoerg Wöll, Conservation and Natural Resources Management, Bad Aussee
Tsuyoshi Yoneda, Kagoshima University
Runguo Zang, Chinese Academy of Forestry
Ming-Gang Zhang, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Nicole Zweifel, University of Zurich

Document Type


Publication details

Slik, JWF, Paoli, G, McGuire, K, Amaral, I, Barroso, J, Bastian, M, Blanc, L, Bongers, F, Boundja, P, Clark, C, Collins, M, Dauby, G, Ding, Y, Doucet, JL, Eler, E, Ferreira, L, Fredriksson, G, Gillet, JF, Harris, D, Leal, M, Laumonier, Y, Malhi, Y, Mansor, A, Martin, E, Miyamoto, K, Araujo-Murakami, A, Nagamasu, H, Nilus, R, Nurtjahya, E, Oliveira, A, Onrizal, O, Parada-Gutierrez, A, Permana, A, Poorter, L, Poulsen, J, Ramirez-Angulo, H, Reitsma, J, Rovero, F, Rozak, A, Sheil, D, Silva-Espejo, J, Silveira, M, Spironelo, W, ter Steege, H, Stevart, T, Navarro-Aguilar, GE, Sunderland, T, Suzuki, E, Tang, J, Theilade, I, van der Heijden, G, van Valkenburg, J, Van Do, T, Vilanova, E, Vos, V, Wich, S, Wöll, H, Yoneda, T, Zang, R, Zhang, MG, & Zweifel, N 2013, 'Large trees drive forest aboveground biomass variation in moist lowland forests across the tropics', Global Ecology and Biogeography, vol. 22, no. 12, pp. 1261-1271

Published version available from:


Peer Reviewed




Large trees (d.b.h. ≥ 70 cm) store large amounts of biomass. Several studies suggest that large trees may be vulnerable to changing climate, potentially leading to declining forest biomass storage. Here we determine the importance of large trees for tropical forest biomass storage and explore which intrinsic (species trait) and extrinsic (environment) variables are associated with the density of large trees and forest biomass at continental and pan-tropical scales.




Aboveground biomass (AGB) was calculated for 120 intact lowland moist forest locations. Linear regression was used to calculate variation in AGB explained by the density of large trees. Akaike information criterion weights (AICc-wi) were used to calculate averaged correlation coefficients for all possible multiple regression models between AGB/density of large trees and environmental and species trait variables correcting for spatial autocorrelation.


Density of large trees explained c. 70% of the variation in pan-tropical AGB and was also responsible for significantly lower AGB in Neotropical [287.8 (mean) ± 105.0 (SD) Mg ha−1] versus Palaeotropical forests (Africa 418.3 ± 91.8 Mg ha−1; Asia 393.3 ± 109.3 Mg ha−1). Pan-tropical variation in density of large trees and AGB was associated with soil coarseness (negative), soil fertility (positive), community wood density (positive) and dominance of wind dispersed species (positive), temperature in the coldest month (negative), temperature in the warmest month (negative) and rainfall in the wettest month (positive), but results were not always consistent among continents.

Main conclusions

Density of large trees and AGB were significantly associated with climatic variables, indicating that climate change will affect tropical forest biomass storage. Species trait composition will interact with these future biomass changes as they are also affected by a warmer climate. Given the importance of large trees for variation in AGB across the tropics, and their sensitivity to climate change, we emphasize the need for in-depth analyses of the community dynamics of large trees.