Aim This study investigates how estimated tree aboveground biomass (AGB) of tropical montane rain forests varies with elevation, and how this variation is related to elevational change in floristic composition, phylogenetic community structure and the biogeography of the dominant tree taxa.
Location Lore Lindu National Park, Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Methods Floristic inventories and stand structural analyses were conducted on 13 plots (each 0.24 ha) in four old-growth forest stands at 1050, 1400, 1800 and 2400 m a.s.l. (submontane to upper montane elevations). Tree AGB estimates were based on d.b.h., height and wood specific gravity. Phylogenetic diversity and biogeographical patterns were analysed based on tree family composition weighted by AGB. Elevational trends in AGB were compared with other Southeast Asian and Neotropical transect studies (n = 7).
Results AGB was invariant from sub- to mid-montane elevation (309–301 Mg ha−1) and increased slightly to 323 Mg ha−1 at upper montane elevation. While tree and canopy height decreased, wood specific gravity increased. Magnoliids accounted for most of the AGB at submontane elevations, while eurosids I (including Fagaceae) contributed substantially to AGB at all elevations. Phylogenetic diversity was highest at upper montane elevations, with co-dominance of tree ferns, Podocarpaceae, Trimeniaceae and asterids/euasterids II, and was lowest at lower/mid-montane elevations, where Fagaceae contributed > 50% of AGB. Biogeographical patterns showed a progression from dominant tropical families at submontane to tropical Fagaceae (Castanopsis, Lithocarpus) at lower/mid-montane, and to conifers and Australasian endemics at upper montane elevations. Cross-continental comparisons revealed an elevational AGB decrease in transects with low/no presence of Fagaceae, but relatively high AGB in montane forests with moderate to high abundance of this family.
Main conclusions AGB is determined by both changes in forest structure and shifts in species composition. In our study, these two factors traded off so that there was no net change in AGB, even though there were large changes in forest structure and composition along the elevational gradient. Southeast Asian montane rain forests dominated by Fagaceae constitute important carbon stocks. The importance of biogeography and species traits for biomass estimation should be considered by initiatives to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and in taxon choice in reforestation for carbon offsetting.