Above-ground biomass and structure of 260 African tropical forests


Simon L. Lewis, University College London
Bonaventure Sonké, University of Yaounde
Terry Sunderland, Center for International Forestry Research, Bogor
Serge K. Begne, University of Leeds
Gabriela Lopez-Gonzalez, University of Leeds
Geertje MF van der Heijden, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Oliver L. Phillips, University of Leeds
Kofi Affum-Baffoe, Forestry Commission of Ghana
Timothy R. Baker, University of Leeds
Lindsay Banin, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bush Estate, UK
Jean-François Bastin, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Hans Beeckman, Royal Museum for Central Africa
Pascal Boeckx, Ghent University
Jan Bogaert, Université de Liège
Charles De Canniere, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Eric Chezeaux, Rougier-Gabon, Oloumi
Connie J. Clark, Duke University
Murray Collins, London School of Economics
Gloria Djagbletey, Forestry Research Institute of Ghana
Marie Noël K. Djuikouo, University of Buea
Vincent Droissart, University College London
Jean-Louise Doucet, University of Liège
Cornielle EN Ewango, Wildlife Conservation Society-DR Congo
Sophie Fauset, University of Leeds
Ted R. Feldpausch, University of Leeds
Ernest G. Foil, Forestry Research Institute of Ghana
Jean-François Gillet, University of Liège
Alan C. Hamilton, Busbridge Lane, Godalming
David J. Harris, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Terese B. Hart, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
Thales de Haulleville, Université de Liège
Annette Hladik, Muséum national d'histoire naturelle
Koen Hufkens, Ghent University
Dries Huygens, Ghent University
Philippe Jeanmart, Precious Woods Gabon, Libreville
Kathryn J. Jeffery, University of Stirling
Elizabeth Kearsley, Royal Museum for Central Africa
Miguel E. Leal, Wildlife Conservation Society, Uganda
Jon Lloyd, James Cook University
Jon C. Lovett, University of Leeds
Jean-Remy Makana, Wildlife Conservation Society-DR Congo
Yadvinder Malhi, Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux
Andrew R. Marshall, University of York
Lucas Ojo, University of Agriculture Abeokuta
Kelvin Peh, University of Leeds
Georgia Pickavance, University of Leeds
John R. Poulsen, Duke University
Jan M. Reitsma, Bureau Waardenburg bv
Douglas Sheil, Southern Cross UniversityFollow
Murielle Simo, University of Yaounde
Kathy Steppe, Ghent University
Hermann E. Taedoumg, University of Yaounde
Joey Talbot, University of Leeds
James RD Taplin, Forum for the Future, Overseas House, London
David Taylor, National University of Singapore
Sean C. Thomas, University of Toronto
Benjamin Toirambe, Royal Museum for Central Africa
Hans Verbeeck, Ghent University
Jason Vleminckx, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Lee JT White, University of Stirling
Simon Willcock, University of Leeds
Hannsjorg Woell, Sommersbergseestrasse, Austria
Lise Zemagho, University of Yaounde

Document Type


Publication details

Lewis, SL, Sonké, B, Sunderland, T, Begne, SK, Lopez-Gonzalez, G, van der Heijden, GMF, Phillips, OL, Affum-Baffoe, K, Baker, TR, Banin, L, Bastin, JF, Beeckman, H, Boeckx, P, Bogaert, J, De Cannière, C, Chezeaux, E, Clark, CJ, Collins, M, Djagbletey, G, Djuikouo, MNK, Droissart, V, Doucet, JL, Ewango, CEN, Fauset, S, Feldpausch, TR, Foli, EG, Gillet, JF, Hamilton, AC, Harris, DJ, Hart, TB, de Haulleville, T, Hladik, A, Hufkens, K, Huygens, D, Jeanmart, P, Jeffery, KJ, Kearsley, E, Leal, ME, Lloyd, J, Lovett, JC, Makana, JR, Malhi, Y, Marshall, AR, Ojo, Peh, KS-H, Pickavance, G, Poulsen, JR, Reitsma, JM, Sheil, D, Simo, M, Steppe, K, Taedoumg, HE, Talbot, J, Taplin, JRD, Taylor, D, Thomas, SC, Toirambe, B, Verbeeck, H, Vleminckx, J, White, LJT, Willcock, S, Woell, H & Zemagho, L , 'Above-ground biomass and structure of 260 African tropical forests', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, vol. 368, no. 1625.

Article available on Open Access


We report above-ground biomass (AGB), basal area, stem density and wood mass density estimates from 260 sample plots (mean size: 1.2 ha) in intact closed-canopy tropical forests across 12 African countries. Mean AGB is 395.7 Mg dry mass ha−1 (95% CI: 14.3), substantially higher than Amazonian values, with the Congo Basin and contiguous forest region attaining AGB values (429 Mg ha−1) similar to those of Bornean forests, and significantly greater than East or West African forests. AGB therefore appears generally higher in palaeo- compared with neotropical forests. However, mean stem density is low (426 ± 11 stems ha−1 greater than or equal to 100 mm diameter) compared with both Amazonian and Bornean forests (cf. approx. 600) and is the signature structural feature of African tropical forests. While spatial autocorrelation complicates analyses, AGB shows a positive relationship with rainfall in the driest nine months of the year, and an opposite association with the wettest three months of the year; a negative relationship with temperature; positive relationship with clay-rich soils; and negative relationships with C : N ratio (suggesting a positive soil phosphorus–AGB relationship), and soil fertility computed as the sum of base cations. The results indicate that AGB is mediated by both climate and soils, and suggest that the AGB of African closed-canopy tropical forests may be particularly sensitive to future precipitation and temperature changes.

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