A tree cut from a dry forest in Madagascar to measure its wood density.
Photo: © Cirad/G. Vieilledent


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A formula used to calculate basic wood density has recently been corrected. Basic density is widely used to compute carbon storage by trees. French researchers estimate that the error in the initial formula resulted in an overestimation of forest carbon stocks by almost five per cent.

It may be a small correction, but it is far from negligible as far as forest ecologists and carbon cycle specialists are concerned. The error lays in a formula established almost 50 years ago (in 1971) for calculating basic wood density. Given that basic density is used to assess the amount of carbon stored in a tree, the fact that the formula had to be corrected meant that forest carbon stocks may have been overestimated by four to five per cent.

"This new formula should enable us to determine more accurately the role of forests in the carbon cycle and the impact of deforestation on climate change," , says Ghislain Vieilledent, an ecologist with the French research centre CIRAD in Montpellier who was the corresponding author of the work published in the journal American Journal of Botany on the 16th October.

For more than 70 years, CIRAD has had a database on 1,300 wood species and almost 4,500 trees.

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