Intra-annual to multi-decadal xylem traits in a tropical moist semi-deciduous forest of Central Africa

Tom De Mil


A witness of a tree’s past conditions is the wood itself. The main research question of this dissertation is how to assess and reveal the driving forces of the patterns of wood traits on pith-to-bark cross-sections in tropical trees. Cambial and leaf phenology was monitored in the Luki Reserve (Mayombe forest, D.R. Congo). Furthermore, X-ray CT densitometry was explored to assess traits in a reliable way, for multiple species. Variability in phenology is observed for T. superba, which requires traits of individual trees to be fixed on a time axis. Furthermore, X-ray CT is a suitable method for assessing traits in a fast way. Cambial activity of understory trees has shown to be species-specific, whilst many trees show zero xylem growth. Finally, 66 years of tree growth was analysed, while trait analysis revealed a median ring count of only 32, thus implying many non-periodical rings. This work presents methodological improvements to measure traits as continuous variables from pith to bark, but also acknowledges that phenology still remains a key aspect in order to fix traits on a time axis.

Key words: leaf phenology, wood anatomy, stable isotopes, Mayombe, dendrochronology, X-ray CT densitometry 

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