Environmental filtering and land-use history drive patterns in biomass accumulation in a mediterranean-type landscape

Kyla M. Dahlin, Gregory P. Asner, Christopher B. Field

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Aboveground biomass (AGB) reflects multiple and often undetermined ecological and land-use processes, yet detailed landscape-level studies of AGB are uncommon due to the difficulty in making consistent measurements at ecologically relevant scales. Working in a protected mediterranean-type landscape (Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, California, USA), we combined field measurements with remotely sensed data from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory's light detection and ranging (lidar) system to create a detailed AGB map. We then developed a predictive model using a maximum of 56 explanatory variables derived from geologic and historic-ownership maps, a digital elevation model, and geographic coordinates to evaluate possible controls over currently observed AGB patterns. We tested both ordinary least-squares regression (OLS) and autoregressive approaches. OLS explained 44% of the variation in AGB, and simultaneous autoregression with a 100-m neighborhood improved the fit to an r 2 = 0.72, while reducing the number of significant predictor variables from 27 variables in the OLS model to 11 variables in the autoregressive model. We also compared the results from these approaches to a more typical field-derived data set; we randomly sampled 5% of the data 1000 times and used the same OLS approach each time. Environmental filters including incident solar radiation, substrate type, and topographic position were significant predictors of AGB in all models. Past ownership was a minor but significant predictor, despite the long history of conservation at the site. The weak predictive power of these environmental variables, and the significant improvement when spatial autocorrelation was incorporated, highlight the importance of land-use history, disturbance regime, and population dynamics as controllers of AGB.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-118
Number of pages15
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Airborne
  • Autoregressive modeling
  • Biomass
  • California USA
  • Carnegie Airborne Observatory
  • Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve
  • Land-use history
  • Landscape ecology
  • Lidar
  • Remote sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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