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Height-diameter allometric equations of an emergent tree species from the Congo Basin

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Reliable tree height-diameter (H-D) allometric equations are a key tool for the estimation of forest productivity and Above Ground Biomass (AGB). Most existing H-D allometric equations developed for the tropical region are based on large-scale multi-species datasets, and their use to derive information on productivity and AGB at the species level is prone to uncertainties. The single-species H-D allometric equations available are mainly focused on monocultures or stands with simple tree species mixtures and did not account for the site effects. Here we measured the height and diameter of 2,288 trees of the emergent tree species Pericopsis elata (Harms) Meeuwen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and in Cameroon. We first examined how accurate multispecies H-D allometric equations are in predicting the total height of P. elata. We then tested whether single-species H-D allometric equations vary between sites. We developed the first H-D allometric equation of P. elata and tested whether and how stand-level and environmental variables induce changes in H-D allometric relationship of P. elata at the regional level. We additionally evaluated whether tree-level variables are important at the local level where climate and stand development stage are expected to be less variable. We found that pantropical, regional and local H-D allometric equations significantly underestimate the total height of P. elata. The local multi-species H-D allometric equation developed for Yangambi showed the highest underestimation in all the studied sites. This result supports the need for an H-D allometric equation specific for P. elata. The species-level H-D allometric equation developed showed significant underestimations for trees from the disturbed and undisturbed forests in DRC, while overestimations were observed for similar sites in Cameroon. Using a mixed-effect H-D allometric equation, we showed that even within a single species, a substantial variation exists between sites. This variation showed to be driven by the differences in the maximum asymptotic height (Hmax) between sites. We found that P. elata trees are taller and attain higher Hmax in DRC than in Cameroon. The basal area showed to be a significant covariate accounting for the site effects at the regional-scale where climate variables showed minor effects. However, at the local-scale, none of climate or stand variables showed to be significant. Local-scale variation showed to be associated with differences in light availability, highlighting the potential of management options that shape the local environment in driving species productivity.

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