Linking hypothesized causal factors to aboveground biomass growth in forests of Alabama and the eastern United States

Santosh K. Ojha, Luben D. Dimov


Aim of study: We analyzed the hypothesized causal effects of relative density, density, height, species richness, species diversity, temperature, precipitation, and slope on above ground biomass growth (AGBG).

Area of study: Eastern region of the USA.

Materials and methods: We used USDA Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) database. A total of 2554 plots from all stand ages, regardless of disturbance history, were selected from the state of Alabama and 967 plots of stand age under 30 years and no prior disturbance were selected from the eastern US. We analyzed the data using descriptive statistics and structural equation modeling.

Main results: Relative stand density exhibited a strong positive direct effect on AGBG, especially in the young forests (path coefficient 0.79), but a weaker indirect effect through species richness/diversity. Tree height influenced positively AGBG directly and indirectly through relative density and species richness. The effect of temperature and slope was greater than the effect of species richness/diversity on AGBG in the young forests of the eastern US.

Research highlights: For the forests of the eastern US, greater tree species diversity did not appear to result in a productivity advantage over less diverse forests, but they were not less productive either. The diversity-productivity relationship was negative in forests of Alabama, however, where prior management likely resulted in removal of select dominant trees from valuable species (i.e., high-grading). 


FIA; productivity; path analysis; relative stand density; species richness; Shannon’s diversity index; temperature


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DOI: 10.5424/fs/2017263-11875