Environmental control of natural gap size distribution in tropical forests
- 1Université de Guyane – UMR Espace-Dev, BP 792, 97337 Cayenne, French Guiana
- 2Office National des Forêts (ONF), Departement RD, Cayenne, French Guiana
- 3Cirad, UMR EcoFoG (AgroParisTech, CNRS, Inra, Univ Antilles, Univ Guyane), Kourou, French Guiana
Abstract. Natural disturbances are the dominant form of forest regeneration and dynamics in unmanaged tropical forests. Monitoring the size distribution of treefall gaps is important to better understand and predict the carbon budget in response to land use and other global changes. In this study, we model the size frequency distribution of natural canopy gaps with a discrete power law distribution. We use a Bayesian framework to introduce and test, using Monte Carlo Markov chain and Kuo–Mallick algorithms, the effect of local physical environment on gap size distribution. We apply our methodological framework to an original light detecting and ranging dataset in which natural forest gaps were delineated over 30 000 ha of unmanaged forest. We highlight strong links between gap size distribution and environment, primarily hydrological conditions and topography, with large gaps being more frequent on floodplains and in wind-exposed areas. In the future, we plan to apply our methodological framework on a larger scale using satellite data. Additionally, although gap size distribution variation is clearly under environmental control, variation in gap size distribution in time should be tested against climate variability.