Species-specific basic stem-wood densities for twelve indigenous forest and shrubland species of known age, New Zealand

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Michael Marden
Suzanne Lambie
Larry Burrows


basic stem-wood density, allometric relations, 12 indigenous forest and shrubland species, New Zealand


Background: Tree carbon estimates for New Zealand indigenous tree and shrub species are largely based on mean basic stem-wood densities derived from a limited number of trees, often of unspecified age and from a limited number of sites throughout New Zealand. Yet stem-wood density values feed directly into New Zealand’s international and national greenhouse gas accounting. We augment existing published basic stem-wood density data with new age-specific values for 12 indigenous forest and shrubland species, including rarely obtained values for trees <6-years old, across 21 widely-distributed sites between latitudes 35° and 46° S, and explore relationships commonly used to estimate carbon stocks.

Methods: The volume of 478 whole stem-wood discs collected at breast height (BH) was determined by water displacement, oven dried, and weighed. Regression analyses were used to determine possible relationships between basic stem-wood density, and tree height, root collar diameter (RCD), and diameter at breast height (DBH). Unbalanced ANOVA was used to determine inter-species differences in basic stem-wood density in 5-yearly age groups (i.e. 0–5 years, 6–10 years etc.) (P<0.05). As specific taxa of Kunzea ericoides (Myrtaceae) has only been identified at some study sites we combine the data from each site, and use the term Kunzea spp. We compare our age- and species-specific results with existing published data where age is specified versus non-age-specific values.

Results: Kunzea spp. and Leptospermum scoparium exhibited positive correlations between basic stem-wood density and tree height, RCD, and DBH. No relationships were established for Melicytus ramiflorus, Coprosma grandiflora, Weinmannia racemosa ?6-years old, or for Podocarpus totara, Agathis australis, Vitex lucens, and Alectryon excelsus <6-years old. Dacrydium cupressinum and Prumnopitys ferruginea <6-years old exhibited a significant positive relationship with DBH only, while for Dacrycarpus dacrydioides, each correlation was negative. Irrespective of age, basic stem-wood density is not different between the hardwood species L. scoparium and Kunzea spp. but is significantly greater (P=0.001) than that of the remaining, and predominantly softwood species of equivalent age. For Kunzea spp., L. scoparium, Coprosma grandiflora, Weinmannia racemosa, and Melicytus ramiflorus ?6-years old there was no evidence that basic stem-wood density increased with tree age, and values were within the range of published and unpublished data. For naturally reverting stands of Kunzea spp. located between latitudes 35° to 46° S, basic stem-wood density values tended to increase with decreased elevation and increased temperature.

Conclusions: Increasing basic wood density values in Kunzea spp. with decreased elevation and increased temperature suggest that where local data are available its use would improve the accuracy of biomass estimates both locally and nationally. Furthermore, refining biomass estimates for existing communities of mixed softwood species, stands of regenerating shrubland, and new plantings of indigenous species will require additional basic stem-wood density values for scaling from stem wood volume to total stand biomass.

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