Biomass and carbon accumulation in a fire chronosequence of a seasonally dry tropical forest


Rodrigo Vargas, tel. +1 951 827 5484, fax +1 951 827 2620, e-mail:


Seasonally dry tropical forests (SDTF) are a widely distributed vegetation type in the tropics, characterized by seasonal rainfall with several months of drought when they are subject to fire. This study is one of the first attempts to quantify above- and belowground biomass (AGB and BGB) and above- and belowground carbon (AGC and BGC) pools to calculate their recovery after fire, using a chronosequence approach (six forests that ranged form 1 to 29 years after fire and mature forest). We quantified AGB and AGC pools of trees, lianas, palms, and seedlings, and BGB and BGC pools (Oi, Oe, Oa soil horizons, and fine roots). Total AGC ranged from 0.05 to nearly 72 Mg C ha−1, BGC from 21.6 to nearly 85 Mg C ha−1, and total ecosystem carbon from 21.7 to 153.5 Mg C ha−1; all these pools increased with forest age. Nearly 50% of the total ecosystem carbon was stored in the Oa horizon of mature forests, and up to 90% was stored in the Oa-horizon of early successional SDTF stands. The soils were shallow with a depth of <20 cm at the study site. To recover values similar to mature forests, BGC and BGB required <19 years with accumulation rates greater than 20 Mg C ha−1 yr−1, while AGB required 80 years with accumulation rates nearly 2.5 Mg C ha−1 yr−1. Total ecosystem biomass and carbon required 70 and 50 years, respectively, to recover values similar to mature forests. When belowground pools are not included in the calculation of total ecosystem biomass or carbon recovery, we estimated an overestimation of 10 and 30 years, respectively.