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      Towards a worldwide wood economics spectrum

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      Ecology Letters
      Wiley

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          Abstract

          Wood performs several essential functions in plants, including mechanically supporting aboveground tissue, storing water and other resources, and transporting sap. Woody tissues are likely to face physiological, structural and defensive trade-offs. How a plant optimizes among these competing functions can have major ecological implications, which have been under-appreciated by ecologists compared to the focus they have given to leaf function. To draw together our current understanding of wood function, we identify and collate data on the major wood functional traits, including the largest wood density database to date (8412 taxa), mechanical strength measures and anatomical features, as well as clade-specific features such as secondary chemistry. We then show how wood traits are related to one another, highlighting functional trade-offs, and to ecological and demographic plant features (growth form, growth rate, latitude, ecological setting). We suggest that, similar to the manifold that tree species leaf traits cluster around the 'leaf economics spectrum', a similar 'wood economics spectrum' may be defined. We then discuss the biogeography, evolution and biogeochemistry of the spectrum, and conclude by pointing out the major gaps in our current knowledge of wood functional traits.

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          Plant Ecological Strategies: Some Leading Dimensions of Variation Between Species

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            Ecology of Coarse Woody Debris in Temperate Ecosystems

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              Old-growth forests as global carbon sinks.

              Old-growth forests remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at rates that vary with climate and nitrogen deposition. The sequestered carbon dioxide is stored in live woody tissues and slowly decomposing organic matter in litter and soil. Old-growth forests therefore serve as a global carbon dioxide sink, but they are not protected by international treaties, because it is generally thought that ageing forests cease to accumulate carbon. Here we report a search of literature and databases for forest carbon-flux estimates. We find that in forests between 15 and 800 years of age, net ecosystem productivity (the net carbon balance of the forest including soils) is usually positive. Our results demonstrate that old-growth forests can continue to accumulate carbon, contrary to the long-standing view that they are carbon neutral. Over 30 per cent of the global forest area is unmanaged primary forest, and this area contains the remaining old-growth forests. Half of the primary forests (6 x 10(8) hectares) are located in the boreal and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. On the basis of our analysis, these forests alone sequester about 1.3 +/- 0.5 gigatonnes of carbon per year. Thus, our findings suggest that 15 per cent of the global forest area, which is currently not considered when offsetting increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, provides at least 10 per cent of the global net ecosystem productivity. Old-growth forests accumulate carbon for centuries and contain large quantities of it. We expect, however, that much of this carbon, even soil carbon, will move back to the atmosphere if these forests are disturbed.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                ELE
                Ecology Letters
                Wiley
                1461023X
                14610248
                April 2009
                April 2009
                : 12
                : 4
                : 351-366
                Article
                10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01285.x
                19243406
                68ebf2dc-0f14-4ee1-99db-d9182820745b
                © 2009

                http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/tdm_license_1.1

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