Model performance of tree height-diameter relationships in the central Congo Basin

Tree heights in the central Congo Basin are overestimated using best-available height-diameter models. These errors are propagated into the estimation of aboveground biomass and canopy height, causing significant bias when used for calibration of remote sensing products in this region.


Tree height-diameter models are important components of estimating aboveground biomass (AGB) and calibrating remote sensing products in tropical forests. For a data-poor area of the central Congo Basin, we quantified height-diameter model performance of local, regional and pan-tropical models for their use in estimating AGB and canopy height. At three old-growth forest sites, we assessed the bias introduced in height estimation by regional and pan-tropical height-diameter models. We developed an optimal local model with site-level randomizations accounted for by using a mixed-effects modeling approach. We quantified the error propagation of modeled heights for estimating AGB and canopy height. Regional and pan-tropical height-diameter models produced a significant overestimation in tree height, propagating into significant overestimations of AGB and Lorey’s height. The pan-tropical model accounting for climatic drivers performed better than the regional models. We present a local height-diameter model which produced nonsignificant errors for AGB and canopy height estimations at our study area. The application of general models at our study area introduced bias in tree height estimations and the derived stand-level variables. Improved delimitation of regions in tropical Africa with similar forest structure is needed to produce models fit for calibrating remote sensing products.

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Kearsley E, Moonen PC, Hufkens K, Doetterl S, Lisingo J, Boyemba Bosela F, Boeckx P, Beeckman H, Verbeeck H 2017. Model performance of tree height-diameter relationships in the central Congo Basin. Ann. For. Sci. 74: 7. 10.1007/s13595-016-0611-0.

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