Modelling growth of Pinus taeda and Eucalyptus grandis as a function of light sums modified by air temperature, vapour pressure deficit, and water balance

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Cecilia Rachid-Casnati
Euan G Mason
Richard C Woollons
Joe Landsberg


forest modelling, hybrid mensurational-physiological models, modified light sums, stand dynamics, Pinus taeda, Eucalyptus grandis


Background: Hybrid mensurational and physiological models seek to combine precision, process explanation, simplicity in parameter definition, and ability to estimate wood products. The aim of this study was to assess the suitability and the advantages of the hybrid mensurational-physiological approach where time has been substituted for light sums in growth equations, to replace traditional time-based models in forecasting systems for Eucalyptus grandis W.Hill and Pinus taeda L.

Methods: Using 974 permanent sample plots from plantations in Uruguay, we adjusted growth equations to project dominant height, net basal area, maximum diameter breast height, and standard deviation of diameters as a function of accumulated light restricted by modifiers that account for principal physiological limitations on photosynthesis. We analysed: i) the inclusion of terrain aspect and slope information for computing radiation; ii) the use of modifiers for temperature, vapour pressure deficit and water balance; iii) bias and precision of hybrid models with respect to time-based equations.

Results: Growth equations showed a good fit for both species when modelled as a function of light sums modified by vapor pressure deficit, air temperature, and water balance. Accounting for slope orientation when computing light sums did not increase precision. Compared to time-based formulations, hybrid models presented a root mean squared error reduction of 10.7% and 4.5% on average for Eucalyptus grandis and for Pinus taeda, respectively, and the relationship between growth and resource availability was consistent with eco-physiological principles for both species.

Conclusions: The hybrid methodology can be applied as a basis of forecasting systems for the species studies with significant advantages over time-based models, such as: (i) an increase in precision; (ii) an increase in spatial and time resolution; and (iii) the possibility of simulating the effect of changes in air temperature and water availability on tree growth.

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