Measures for sustainable forest management in the tropics – A tree-ring based case study on tree growth and forest dynamics in a Central Amazonian lowland moist forest
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The conservation of tropical forests is recognized as one of the most important challenges for forestry, ecology and politics. Besides strict protection, the sustainable management of natural forests should be enhanced as a key part of the foundation for the maintenance of tropical rain forest ecosystems. Due to methodological reasons it has been complicated to attain reliable growth data to plan sustainable felling cycles and rotation periods. Tree ring analyses enable the estimation of growth rates over the entire life span of trees and their age as well as giving hints from forest dynamics in previous centuries. For tree ring analysis, stem disk samples were taken from three important commercial tree species (Cariniana micrantha, Caryocar villosum and Manilkara huberi) in the upland (terra firme) forests of the Precious Woods Amazon logging company near Itacoatiara, Brazil. Based on radiocarbon estimates of individual growth zones, the annual nature of tree rings was proven for the three species. Tree rings were measured and the results used together with height estimates to model diameter, height and volume growth. The age of the eldest tree, a C. micrantha, was 585 yrs with 165 cm in diameter. The species' diameter increments range from 0.20±0.12 cm yr-1 to 0.29±0.08 cm yr-1. At first sight, this is considerably lower than increments reported from other Amazonian or African timber species. Considering the respective wood density there is no significant difference in growth performance of dominant timber species across continents. The interpretation of lifetime tree ring curves indicate differences in shadow tolerance among species, the persistence of individuals in the understory for up to 150 years and natural stand dynamics without major disturbances. Management criteria should be adapted for the measured growth rates as they differed considerably from the Brazilian standards fixed by laws (felling cycle of 25-35 years and a common minimum logging diameter of 50 cm). Felling cycles should be increased to 32-51 years and minimum logging diameters to 63-123 cm depending on the species.