Aboveground Carbon Storage and Its Links to Stand Structure, Tree Diversity and Floristic Composition in South-Eastern Tanzania

Iain M. McNicol*, Casey M. Ryan, Kyle G. Dexter, Stephen M.J. Ball, Mathew Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


African savannas and dry forests represent a large, but poorly quantified store of biomass carbon and biodiversity. Improving this information is hindered by a lack of recent forest inventories, which are necessary for calibrating earth observation data and for evaluating the relationship between carbon stocks and tree diversity in the context of forest conservation (for example, REDD+). Here, we present new inventory data from south-eastern Tanzania, comprising more than 15,000 trees at 25 locations located across a gradient of aboveground woody carbon (AGC) stocks. We find that larger trees disproportionately contribute to AGC, with the largest 3.7% of individuals containing half the carbon. Tree species diversity and carbon stocks were positively related, implying a potential functional relationship between the two, and a ‘win–win’ scenario for conservation; however, lower biomass areas also contain diverse species assemblages meaning that carbon-oriented conservation may miss important areas of biodiversity. Despite these variations, we find that total tree abundance and biomass is skewed towards a few locally dominant species, with eight and nine species (5.7% of the total) accounting for over half the total measured trees and carbon, respectively. This finding implies that carbon production in these areas is channelled through a small number of relatively abundant species. Our results provide key insights into the structure and functioning of these heterogeneous ecosystems and indicate the need for novel strategies for future measurement and monitoring of carbon stocks and biodiversity, including the use for larger plots to capture spatial variations in large tree density and AGC stocks, and to allow the calibration of earth observation data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)740-754
Early online date6 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • aboveground carbon storage
  • Africa
  • biomass–biodiversity relationship
  • large trees
  • miombo
  • monitoring
  • permanent plot
  • tree diversity
  • tree species composition

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