Tree Biomass

Estimating the total amount of biomass (the total mass of all individuals) in forests is important for understanding the global carbon budget and how the earth will respond to increases in carbon dioxide emissions. Measuring the mass of whole trees is a major effort and requires destructive harvest of the tree. Fortunately, we can estimate the mass of a tree based on its diameter.

There are lots of equations for estimating the mass of a tree from its diameter, but one good option is the equation:

Mass = 0.124 * Diameter2.53

where Mass is measured in kg of dry above-ground biomass and Diameter is in cm DBH (Brown 1997).

We’re going to estimate the total tree biomass for trees in a 96 hectare area of the Western Ghats in India. The raw data is available on Ecological Archives. Unfortunately, the data is stored in a poor database structure and using all of the tree stems would be difficult without first tidying up the data. You can have a look at the metadata to get familiar with the data structure.

  1. Use tidyr to gather() the raw data into rows for each measured stem.
  2. Write a function that takes a vector of tree diameters as an argument and
    returns a vector of tree masses.
  3. Stems are measured in girth (or circumference) rather than diameter. Write a function that takes a vector of circumferences as an argument and returns a vector of diameters (circumference = pi * diameter).
  4. Use the two functions you’ve written to estimate the total biomass (i.e., the sum of the masses) of trees in this dataset and print the result to the screen.
  5. separate() the SpCode into GenusCode and SpEpCode and estimate the total biomass per genus in a table. Technically the four letter code doesn’t uniquely identify all of the genera in the dataset, but we’ll assume it does for the purpose of this exercise.
[click here for output]