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    Description

    Research Highlights: Estimates using measurements from a sample of approximately 132,000 field plots imply that while the species composition of US forests varies substantially across different age groups, the specific gravity of wood in those forests does not. This suggests that models using increasingly accurate spaceborne measurements of tree size to model forest biomass do not need to consider stand age as a covariate, greatly reducing model complexity and calibration data requirements. Background and Objectives: Upcoming lidar and radar platforms will give us unprecedented information about how big the trees around the world are. To estimate biomass from these measurements, one must know if tall trees in young stands have the same biomass density as trees of equal size in older stands. Conventional succession theory suggests that fast-growing pioneers often have lower wood (and biomass) density than the species that eventually dominate older stands. Materials and Methods: We used a nationally consistent database of field measurements to analyze patterns of both wood specific gravity (WSG) across age groups in the United States and changes of species composition that would explain any shifts in WSG. Results: Shifts in species composition were observed across 12 different ecological divisions within the US, reflecting both successional processes and management history impacts. However, steady increases in WSG with age were not observed, and WSG differences were much larger across ecosystems than across within-ecosystem age groups. Conclusions: With no strong evidence that age is important in specifying how much biomass to ascribe to trees of a particular size, field data collection can focus on acquiring reference data in poorly sampled ecosystems instead of expanding existing samples to include a range of ages for each level of canopy height.

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    Citation

    Healey, Sean P.; Menlove, James. 2019. The stability of mean wood specific gravity across stand age in US forests despite species turnover. Forests. 10: 114.

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    Keywords

    biomass, wood density, lidar, forest inventory, stand dynamics

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https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/58616