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author:("beckman, Hans")
1.  Above-ground biomass and structure of 260 African tropical forests 
We report above-ground biomass (AGB), basal area, stem density and wood mass density estimates from 260 sample plots (mean size: 1.2 ha) in intact closed-canopy tropical forests across 12 African countries. Mean AGB is 395.7 Mg dry mass ha−1 (95% CI: 14.3), substantially higher than Amazonian values, with the Congo Basin and contiguous forest region attaining AGB values (429 Mg ha−1) similar to those of Bornean forests, and significantly greater than East or West African forests. AGB therefore appears generally higher in palaeo- compared with neotropical forests. However, mean stem density is low (426 ± 11 stems ha−1 greater than or equal to 100 mm diameter) compared with both Amazonian and Bornean forests (cf. approx. 600) and is the signature structural feature of African tropical forests. While spatial autocorrelation complicates analyses, AGB shows a positive relationship with rainfall in the driest nine months of the year, and an opposite association with the wettest three months of the year; a negative relationship with temperature; positive relationship with clay-rich soils; and negative relationships with C : N ratio (suggesting a positive soil phosphorus–AGB relationship), and soil fertility computed as the sum of base cations. The results indicate that AGB is mediated by both climate and soils, and suggest that the AGB of African closed-canopy tropical forests may be particularly sensitive to future precipitation and temperature changes.
doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0295
PMCID: PMC3720018  PMID: 23878327
climate; soil; wood density; Congo Basin; east Africa; west Africa
2.  Fluctuations of cambial activity in relation to precipitation result in annual rings and intra-annual growth zones of xylem and phloem in teak (Tectona grandis) in Ivory Coast 
Annals of Botany  2012;110(4):861-873.
Background and Aims
Teak forms xylem rings that potentially carry records of carbon sequestration and climate in the tropics. These records are only useful when the structural variations of tree rings and their periodicity of formation are known.
Methods
The seasonality of ring formation in mature teak trees was examined via correlative analysis of cambial activity, xylem and phloem formation, and climate throughout 1·5 years. Xylem and phloem differentiation were visualized by light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy.
Key Results
A 3 month dry season resulted in semi-deciduousness, cambial dormancy and formation of annual xylem growth rings (AXGRs). Intra-annual xylem and phloem growth was characterized by variable intensity. Morphometric features of cambium such as cambium thickness and differentiating xylem layers were positively correlated. Cambium thickness was strongly correlated with monthly rainfall (R2 = 0·7535). In all sampled trees, xylem growth zones (XGZs) were formed within the AXGRs during the seasonal development of new foliage. When trees achieved full leaf, the xylem in the new XGZs appeared completely differentiated and functional for water transport. Two phloem growth rings were formed in one growing season.
Conclusions
The seasonal formation pattern and microstructure of teak xylem suggest that AXGRs and XGZs can be used as proxies for analyses of the tree history and climate at annual and intra-annual resolution.
doi:10.1093/aob/mcs145
PMCID: PMC3423803  PMID: 22805529
Growth rings; teak; Tectona grandis; vascular cambium; xylem and phloem formation
3.  Olive Tree-Ring Problematic Dating: A Comparative Analysis on Santorini (Greece) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54730.
Olive trees are a classic component of Mediterranean environments and some of them are known historically to be very old. In order to evaluate the possibility to use olive tree-rings for dendrochronology, we examined by various methods the reliability of olive tree-rings identification. Dendrochronological analyses of olive trees growing on the Aegean island Santorini (Greece) show that the determination of the number of tree-rings is impossible because of intra-annual wood density fluctuations, variability in tree-ring boundary structure, and restriction of its cambial activity to shifting sectors of the circumference, causing the tree-ring sequences along radii of the same cross section to differ.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054730
PMCID: PMC3557290  PMID: 23382949
4.  Cambial Growth Season of Brevi-Deciduous Brachystegia spiciformis Trees from South Central Africa Restricted to Less than Four Months 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47364.
We investigate cambial growth periodicity in Brachystegia spiciformis, a dominant tree species in the seasonally dry miombo woodland of southern Africa. To better understand how the brevi-deciduous (experiencing a short, drought-induced leaf fall period) leaf phenology of this species can be linked to a distinct period of cambial activity, we applied a bi-weekly pinning to six trees in western Zambia over the course of one year. Our results show that the onset and end of cambial growth was synchronous between trees, but was not concurrent with the onset and end of the rainy season. The relatively short (three to four months maximum) cambial growth season corresponded to the core of the rainy season, when 75% of the annual precipitation fell, and to the period when the trees were at full photosynthetic capacity. Tree-ring studies of this species have found a significant relationship between annual tree growth and precipitation, but we did not observe such a correlation at intra-annual resolution in this study. Furthermore, a substantial rainfall event occurring after the end of the cambial growth season did not induce xylem initiation or false ring formation. Low sample replication should be taken into account when interpreting the results of this study, but our findings can be used to refine the carbon allocation component of process-based terrestrial ecosystem models and can thus contribute to a more detailed estimation of the role of the miombo woodland in the terrestrial carbon cycle. Furthermore, we provide a physiological foundation for the use of Brachystegia spiciformis tree-ring records in paleoclimate research.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047364
PMCID: PMC3468463  PMID: 23071794
5.  High-resolution proxies for wood density variations in Terminalia superba 
Annals of Botany  2010;107(2):293-302.
Background and Aims
Density is a crucial variable in forest and wood science and is evaluated by a multitude of methods. Direct gravimetric methods are mostly destructive and time-consuming. Therefore, faster and semi- to non-destructive indirect methods have been developed.
Methods
Profiles of wood density variations with a resolution of approx. 50 µm were derived from one-dimensional resistance drillings, two-dimensional neutron scans, and three-dimensional neutron and X-ray scans. All methods were applied on Terminalia superba Engl. & Diels, an African pioneer species which sometimes exhibits a brown heart (limba noir).
Key Results
The use of X-ray tomography combined with a reference material permitted direct estimates of wood density. These X-ray-derived densities overestimated gravimetrically determined densities non-significantly and showed high correlation (linear regression, R2 = 0·995). When comparing X-ray densities with the attenuation coefficients of neutron scans and the amplitude of drilling resistance, a significant linear relation was found with the neutron attenuation coefficient (R2 = 0·986) yet a weak relation with drilling resistance (R2 = 0·243). When density patterns are compared, all three methods are capable of revealing the same trends. Differences are mainly due to the orientation of tree rings and the different characteristics of the indirect methods.
Conclusions
High-resolution X-ray computed tomography is a promising technique for research on wood cores and will be explored further on other temperate and tropical species. Further study on limba noir is necessary to reveal the causes of density variations and to determine how resistance drillings can be further refined.
doi:10.1093/aob/mcq224
PMCID: PMC3025726  PMID: 21131386
High-resolution X-ray tomography; neutron imaging; drilling resistance; Terminalia superba; wood density
6.  Successive Cambia: A Developmental Oddity or an Adaptive Structure? 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e16558.
Background
Secondary growth by successive cambia is a rare phenomenon in woody plant species. Only few plant species, within different phylogenetic clades, have secondary growth by more than one vascular cambium. Often, these successive cambia are organised concentrically. In the mangrove genus Avicennia however, the successive cambia seem to have a more complex organisation. This study aimed (i) at understanding the development of successive cambia by giving a three-dimensional description of the hydraulic architecture of Avicennia and (ii) at unveiling the possible adaptive nature of growth by successive cambia through a study of the ecological distribution of plant species with concentric internal phloem.
Results
Avicennia had a complex network of non-cylindrical wood patches, the complexity of which increased with more stressful ecological conditions. As internal phloem has been suggested to play a role in water storage and embolism repair, the spatial organisation of Avicennia wood could provide advantages in the ecologically stressful conditions species of this mangrove genus are growing in. Furthermore, we could observe that 84.9% of the woody shrub and tree species with concentric internal phloem occurred in either dry or saline environments strengthening the hypothesis that successive cambia provide the necessary advantages for survival in harsh environmental conditions.
Conclusions
Successive cambia are an ecologically important characteristic, which seems strongly related with water-limited environments.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016558
PMCID: PMC3031581  PMID: 21304983
7.  A Patchy Growth via Successive and Simultaneous Cambia: Key to Success of the Most Widespread Mangrove Species Avicennia marina? 
Annals of Botany  2007;101(1):49-58.
Background and Aims
Secondary growth via successive cambia has been intriguing researchers for decades. Insight into the mechanism of growth layer formation is, however, limited to the cellular level. The present study aims to clarify secondary growth via successive cambia in the mangrove species Avicennia marina on a macroscopic level, addressing the formation of the growth layer network as a whole. In addition, previously suggested effects of salinity on growth layer formation were reconsidered.
Methods
A 1-year cambial marking experiment was performed on 80 trees from eight sites in two mangrove forests in Kenya. Environmental (soil water salinity and nutrients, soil texture, inundation frequency) and tree characteristics (diameter, height, leaf area index) were recorded for each site. Both groups of variables were analysed in relation to annual number of growth layers, annual radial increment and average growth layer width of stem discs.
Key Results
Between trees of the same site, the number of growth layers formed during the 1-year study period varied from only part of a growth layer up to four growth layers, and was highly correlated to the corresponding radial increment (0–5 mm year–1), even along the different sides of asymmetric stem discs. The radial increment was unrelated to salinity, but the growth layer width decreased with increasing salinity and decreasing tree height.
Conclusions
A patchy growth mechanism was proposed, with an optimal growth at distinct moments in time at different positions around the stem circumference. This strategy creates the opportunity to form several growth layers simultaneously, as observed in 14 % of the studied trees, which may optimize tree growth under favourable conditions. Strong evidence was provided for a mainly endogenous trigger controlling cambium differentiation, with an additional influence of current environmental conditions in a trade-off between hydraulic efficiency and mechanical stability.
doi:10.1093/aob/mcm280
PMCID: PMC2701843  PMID: 18006508
Avicenia marina; cambial marking; mangrove; phloem; salinity; secondary growth; successive cambia; xylem
8.  Comparative Anatomy of Intervessel Pits in Two Mangrove Species Growing Along a Natural Salinity Gradient in Gazi Bay, Kenya 
Annals of Botany  2007;100(2):271-281.
Background and Aims
According to the air-seeding hypothesis, embolism vulnerability in xylem elements is linked directly to bordered pit structure and functioning. To elucidate the adaptive potential of intervessel pits towards fluctuating environmental conditions, two mangrove species with a distinct ecological distribution growing along a natural salinity gradient were investigated.
Methods
Scanning and transmission electron microscopic observations were conducted to obtain qualitative and quantitative characteristics of alternate intervessel pits in A. marina and scalariform intervessel pits in Rhizophora mucronata. Wood samples from three to six trees were collected at seven and five sites for A. marina and R. mucronata, respectively, with considerable differences between sites in soil water salinity.
Key Results
Vestured pits without visible pores in the pit membrane were observed in A. marina, the mangrove species with the widest geographical distribution on global as well as local scale. Their thick pit membranes (on average 370 nm) and minute pit apertures may contribute to reduced vulnerability to cavitation of this highly salt-tolerant species. The smaller ecological distribution of R. mucronata was in accordance with wide pit apertures and a slightly higher pitfield fraction (67 % vs. 60 % in A. marina). Nonetheless, its outer pit apertures were observed to be funnel-shaped shielding non-porous pit membranes. No trends in intervessel pit size were observed with increasing soil water salinity of the site.
Conclusions
The contrasting ecological distribution of two mangrove species was reflected in the geometry and pit membrane characteristics of their intervessel pits. Within species, intervessel pit size seemed to be independent of spatial variations in environmental conditions and was only weakly correlated with vessel diameter. Further research on pit formation and function has to clarify the large variations in intervessel pit size within trees and even within single vessels.
doi:10.1093/aob/mcm103
PMCID: PMC2735318  PMID: 17565970
Rhizophora mucronata; Avicennia marina; intervessel pits; salinity; Kenya; pit membrane; vestures; ecological wood anatomy; cavitation vulnerability; xylem; field-emission SEM; TEM
9.  Influence of a Salinity Gradient on the Vessel Characters of the Mangrove Species Rhizophora mucronata 
Annals of Botany  2006;98(6):1321-1330.
• Background and Aims Although mangroves have been extensively studied, little is known about their ecological wood anatomy. This investigation examined the potential use of vessel density as a proxy for soil water salinity in the mangrove species Rhizophora mucronata (Rhizophoraceae) from Kenya.
• Methods In a time-standardized approach, 50 wood discs from trees growing in six salinity categories were investigated. Vessel densities, and tangential and radial diameters of rainy and dry season wood of one distinct year, at three positions on the stem discs, were measured. A repeated-measures ANOVA with the prevailing salinity was performed.
• Key Results Vessel density showed a significant increase with salinity, supporting its use as a prospective measure of salinity. Interestingly, the negative salinity response of the radial diameter of vessels was less striking, and tangential diameter was constant under the varying environmental conditions. An effect of age or growth rate or the presence of vessel dimorphism could be excluded as the cause of the absence of any ecological trend.
• Conclusions The clear trend in vessel density with salinity, together with the absence of a growth rate and age effect, validates the potential of vessel density as an environmental proxy. However, it can only be used as a relative measure of salinity given that other environmental variables such as inundation frequency have an additional influence on vessel density. With view to a reliable, absolute proxy, future research should focus on finding wood anatomical features correlated exclusively with soil water salinity or inundation frequency. The plasticity in vessel density with differing salinity suggests a role in the establishment of a safe water transport system. To confirm this hypothesis, the role of inter-vessel pits, their relationship to the rather constant vessel diameter and the underlying physiology and cell biology needs to be examined.
doi:10.1093/aob/mcl224
PMCID: PMC2803579  PMID: 17062590
Rhizophora mucronata; mangrove; ecological wood anatomy; vessel density; vessel diameter; proxy; salinity; inundation frequency; Kenya; hydraulic architecture

Results 1-9 (9)