iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


On the geometry and allometry of big-buttressed trees - a challenge for forest monitoring: new insights from 3D-modeling with terrestrial laser scanning

Nils Nölke (1)   , Lutz Fehrmann (1), Surati Jaya I Nengah (2), Tatang Tiryana (2), Dominik Seidel (1), Christoph Kleinn (1)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 8, Issue 5, Pages 574-581 (2015)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor1449-007
Published: Mar 02, 2015 - Copyright © 2015 SISEF

Research Articles

In many old-growth natural and close-to-natural forest types, notably in humid tropical forests, a relatively small number of very tall trees contribute considerably to stand basal area and biomass. Such trees often show distinct buttress roots with irregular non-convex shapes. Buttresses are complex structures in the lowest stem section, where most tree biomass is located. The methods used to assess the diameter of buttressed trees have a large impact on the determination of volume and biomass, as well as on the resulting estimates of the aboveground carbon stock in tropical forests. As the measurement of diameter at breast height (DBH at 1.3 m) is not feasible in such conditions, the diameter above buttress (DAB), where the cylindrical bole of the tree begins, is usually measured and included as an independent variable in biomass models. We conducted a methodological study aimed at determining the volume and biomass of individual buttressed trees belonging to several tropical species by the application of terrestrial laser scanning (TLS). The geometry and allometry of the buttresses, as well as the change with height along the stem in buttress volume and cross-sectional area were analyzed. Our results suggest that the relationship between cross-sectional areas at DAB height (ADAB) and the actual tree basal area measured at 1.3 m height is relatively strong (R² = 0.87) across a range of different species, buttress morphologies and tree dimensions. Furthermore, the change in stem cross-sectional area with tree height was surprisingly similar and smooth. Despite the small number of trees sampled, the methodological approach used in this study provided new insights on the very irregular geometry of buttressed trees. Our results may help improving the volume and biomass models for buttressed trees, that are crucial contributors to carbon stocks in tropical forests.


Biomass, Morphology, Volume, Form Factor

Authors’ address

Nils Nölke
Lutz Fehrmann
Dominik Seidel
Christoph Kleinn
Chair of Forest Inventory and Remote Sensing, Universität Göttingen, Büsgenweg 5, D-37075 Göttingen (Germany)
Surati Jaya I Nengah
Tatang Tiryana
Division of Forestry Planning, Department of Forest Management, Faculty of Forestry, Bogor Agricultural University (Indonesia)

Corresponding author

Nils Nölke


Nölke N, Fehrmann L, I Nengah SJ, Tiryana T, Seidel D, Kleinn C (2015). On the geometry and allometry of big-buttressed trees - a challenge for forest monitoring: new insights from 3D-modeling with terrestrial laser scanning. iForest 8: 574-581. - doi: 10.3832/ifor1449-007

Academic Editor

Matteo Garbarino

Paper history

Received: Sep 19, 2014
Accepted: Dec 22, 2014

First online: Mar 02, 2015
Publication Date: Oct 01, 2015
Publication Time: 2.33 months

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