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Economically important species dominate aboveground carbon storage in forests of southwestern Amazonia

N. Galia Selaya, University of Florida, Florida, USA
Pieter A. Zuidema, Forest Ecology and Forest Management, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
Christopher Baraloto, International Center for Tropical Botany, Florida International University, Florida, USA; INRA, UMR Ecologie des Forets de Guyane, French Guiana
Vincent A. Vos, Universidad Autónoma del Beni, Bolivia; Centro de Investigación y Promoción del Campesinado, Regional Norte Amazónico, Riberalta, Bolivia
Roel J. W. Brienen, School of Geography, University of Leeds, UK
Nigel Pitman, Science and Education, The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Foster Brown, Woods Hole Research Center, Massachusetts, USA; Federal University of Acre, Brazil
Amy E. Duchelle, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia
Alejandro Araujo-Murakami, Museo de Historia Natural Noel Kempff Mercado, Universidad Autónoma Gabriel René Moreno, Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Luis A. Oliveira Carillo, Unidad Academica Las Piedras, Universidad Amazónica de Pando, Bolivia
Guido H. Vasquez Colomo, Universidad Amazónica de Pando, Bolivia
Severo Meo Chupinagua, Biology Department, ACBN, Universidad Amazónica de Pando
Hugo Fuentes Nay, Herencia, Bolivia
Stephen Perz, University of Florida, Florida, USA


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Tree species in tropical forests provide economically important goods and ecosystem services. In submontane forests of southwestern Amazonia, we investigated the degree to which tree species important for subsistence and trade contribute to aboveground carbon storage (AGC). We used 41 1-hectare plots to determine the species abundance, basal area, and AGC of stems > 10 cm diameter at breast height (dbh). Economically important taxa were classified using ethnobotanical studies and according to their stem density. These taxa (n = 263) accounted for 45% of total stems, 53% of total basal area, and 56% of total AGC, significantly more than taxa with minor or unknown uses (Welch test at p < 0.05). Taxa with 1-2 stems per hectare, or with fewer than 1 stem per hectare (common and rare) accounted for 35% of total AGC, more than the 22% accounted for by dominant taxa. High basal area had a greater impact on AGC than abundance in economic taxa because their populations are skewed to adult trees. Size in these taxa had a median dbh > 40 cm and few stems in regeneration classes of dbh < 10 to 20 cm (e.g., Bertholletia excelsa, Cariniana spp., Cedrelinga spp., Ceiba spp., Dipteryx spp.), whereas dominant Tetragastris spp., and Pseudolmedia spp. had most stems in low diameter classes and a median diameter of < 30 cm. Bertholletia excelsa, with 1.5 stems per hectare, showed the highest basal area of any species and accounted for 9% of AGC (11 Mg/ha), twice that of the second-ranking species. Our study shows that economic importance and carbon stocks in trees are closely linked in southwestern Amazonia. Unplanned harvests can disrupt synergistic dual roles altering carbon stocks temporally or permanently. Precautionary measures based on species ecology, demography, and regeneration traits should be at the forefront of REDD+ to reconcile maximum harvesting limits, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable forest management.

Key words

basal area; Bertholletia excelsa; carbon storage; economic importance, REDD+; southwestern Amazonia; taxa abundance

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087