Patterns of biomass allocation between foliage and woody structure: the effects of tree size and specific functional traits


  • Sylvanus Mensah Laboratory of Biomathematics and Forest Estimations, University of Abomey-Calavi (Benin) Department of Forest and Wood Sciences, Stellenbosch University (South Africa)
  • Romain Glèlè Kakaï Laboratory of Biomathematics and Forest estimations, University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin
  • Thomas Seifert Department of Forest and Wood Sciences, Stellenbosch University, South Africa



aboveground biomass, leaf area, leaf to wood mass ratio, Mistbelt forest, South Africa, partitioning, species identity, trunk diameter, wood density


Biomass allocation is closely related to species traits, resources availability and competitive abilities, and therefore it is often used to capture resource utilisation within plants. In this study, we searched for patterns in biomass allocation between foliage and wood (stem plus branch), and how they changed with tree size (diameter), species identity and functional traits (leaf area and specific wood density). Using data on the aboveground biomass of 89 trees from six species in a Mistbelt forest (South Africa), we evaluated the leaf to wood mass ratio (LWR). The effects of tree size, species identity and specific traits on LWR were tested using Generalised Linear Models. Tree size (diameter) was the main driver of biomass allocation, with 44.43 % of variance explained. As expected, LWR declined significantly with increasing tree diameter. Leaf area (30.17% explained variance) and wood density (12.61% explained variance) also showed significant effects, after size effect was accounted for. Results also showed clear differences among species and between groups of species. Per unit of wood mass, more biomass is allocated to the foliage in the species with the larger leaf area. Inversely, less biomass is allocated to the foliage in species with higher wood density. Moreover, with increasing diameter, lower wood density species tended to allocate more biomass to foliage and less biomass to stems and branches. Overall, our results emphasise the influence of plant size and functional traits on biomass allocation, but showed that neither tree diameter and species identity nor leaf area and wood density are the only important variables.


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