top of page










Assessing the above-ground biomass of a complex tropical rainforest using a canopy crane

Journal Article

Liddell M; Nieullet N; Campoe O; Freiberg M


Austral Ecology



Current estimates of the total biomass in tropical rainforests vary considerably; this is due in large part to the different approaches that are used to calculate biomass. In this study we have used a canopy crane to measure the tree architectures in a 1 ha plot of complex mesophyll vine forest at Cape Tribulation Australia. Methods were developed to measure and calculate the crown and stem biomass of six major species of tree and palm (Alstonia scholaris (Apocynaceae) Cleistanthus myrianthus (Euphorbiaceae) Endiandra microneura (Lauraceae) Myristica insipida (Myristicaceae) Acmena graveolens (Myrtaceae) Normanbya normanbyi (Arecaceae)) using the unique access provided by the crane. This has allowed the first non-destructive biomass estimate to be carried out for a forest of this type. Allometric equations which relate tree biomass to the measured variable ‘diameter at breast height’ were developed for the six species and a general equation was also developed for trees on the plot. The general equation was similar in form to equations developed for tropical rainforests in Brazil and New Guinea.The species equations were applied at the level of families the generalized equation was applied to the remaining species which allowed the biomass of a total of 680 trees to be calculated. This has provided a current estimate of 270 t ha-1 above-ground biomass at the Australian Canopy Crane site; a value comparable to lowland rainforests in Panama and French Guiana. Using the same tree database seven alternative allometric equations (literature equations for tropical rainforests) were used to calculate the site biomass the range was large (252–446 t ha-1) with only three equations providing estimates within 34 t ha-1 (12.5%) of the site value. Our use of multiple species-specific allometric equations has provided a site estimate only slightly larger (1%) than that obtained using allometric equations developed specifically for tropical wet rainforests. We have demonstrated that it is possible to nondestructively measure the biomass in a complex forest using an on-site canopy crane. In conjunction the development of crown maps and a detailed tree architecture database allows changes in forest structure to be followed quantitatively.


bottom of page