Posted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 3:12 pm
by KoutaR

I made a literature search for the most biomass-dense forests on Earth. The forest types whose highest values are over 1000 tons/hectare have been listed below. I have named the forest types after the tree species with most biomass, with the exception of the last type where the biomass distribution between the two dominant species has not been specified. In all other types the named species have over twice the biomass of the second most important species. Other species may be more numerous, e.g. in the Sequoiadendron stand, Abies lowiana (= A. concolor var. lowiana) is much more numerous but the former contains much more biomass. It is well known that Sequoia sempervirens forests are the most biomass-dense but it is less well known that the best Eucalyptus regnans stands are not far behind, one factor being about 25% higher wood density. Only above-ground live biomass is included.


The biomass values are not fully comparable. In some stands (especially S. sempervirens and Picea - Tsuga) the biomass of all the components, including tree leaves and herbs, has been calculated. In some stands (e.g. A. procera, Pseudotsuga and Sequoiadendron) only the stem biomass is included. In a few stands (e.g. E. regnans), it is difficult to say which components have been included, therefore I did not make any adjustments. Anyway, most of the biomass is in the tree stems (in the case of the Picea - Tsuga stand 88%), so the stem biomasses should be relatively close to the total biomasses. In Agathis australis, a much higher proportion of the biomass is in the branches; anyway, the value for the Agathis stand includes branches, too. In three cases, only stem volume was given; for them, I calculated biomasses by multiplying the volumes by the wood densities I found on the Internet, mainly from source #10. Those values are shown in italics. The reliability of the sources may also differ.

For the Picea - Tsuga type, I averaged the biomasses of the two most massive 0.4 ha plots in the same location, because I wanted the stands to have, if possible, at least ~1 ha sample area to be comparable. If only the most massive plot is used, the value is 1078 t/ha.


The Goat Marsh RNA stand. Most trees are Abies procera. Other species visible: Abies amabilis (with pale trunk, left), Pseudotsuga menziesii (with very coarse bark, background left) and Tsuga heterophylla (with lower branches, center and right).

My list may well be affected by accessibility of information. A further candidate for the list could be, for example, the Taiwania - Chamaecyparis forests of Taiwan. Other Eucalyptus species, like E. delegatensis, could also make the list.

It is well known that although tropical rainforests have much higher productivity they are not as biomass-dense as the western coniferous forests. However, the best stands are not far from making the list: the most massive value I have found is 873 t/ha for lowland evergreen dipterocarp rainforest in Sebulu, East Kalimantan. The value has been achieved by a very exact destructive sampling, though the sample area is only 0.125 ha (11).

For comparison, values for the eastern US and Europe would be useful. The highest value I have found for Europe is 788 t/ha. The site is Cozzo Ferriero Reserve, an almost pure Fagus sylvatica forest at 1700-1750 m a.s.l. in southern Italy. The site has been undisturbed since about 1930. Wood volume of 1383 m3/ha has been reported, though the plot size is only 0.16 ha (14). I used wood density 0.57 g/cm3 (15).

A note about the significance of high biomass values: It is too easy to draw the conclusion that an extremely biomass-dense forest is a place "full of life". However, most of this biomass is dead wood inside the tree boles where its significance to other organisms (apart from loggers and big tree enthusiasts) is limited.

If anybody has additions or corrections, please post them here.


1 Van Pelt, R. (2014). Unpublished data.

2 Keith, H., Mackey, B. G. & Lindenmayer, D. B. (2009): Re-evaluation of forest biomass carbon stocks and lessons from the world's most carbon-dense forests.

3 Fujimori, T., Kawanabe, S., Saito, H., Grier, C. C. & Shidei, T. (1976): Biomass and Primary Production in Forests of Three Major Vegetation Zones of the Northwestern United States. J. Jap. For. Soc. 58(10).

4 Silvester, W. B. & Orchard, T. A. (1999): The biology of kauri (Agathis australis) in New Zealand. Production, biomass, carbon storage, and litter fall in four forest remnants. New Zealand Journal of Botany, Vol. 37: 553-571.

5 Dean, C., Roxburgh, S., Mackey, B. G. (2003): Growth modelling of Eucalyptus regnans for carbon accounting at the landscape scale. In Amaro, A., Reed, D., Soares, P. (eds.) Modeling Forest Systems. CABI, Wallingford. Citation in 2

6 Van Pelt, R. & Franklin, J. F. (2000): Influence of canopy structure on the understory environment in tall, old-growth, conifer forests. Can. J. For. Res. 30: 1231–1245.

7 Herzog, W. (1989): Aufbau und Entwicklung von Tannenwäldern (Abies magnifica) in den Hochlagen der Sierra Nevada (Kalifornien). Forstarchiv 60, 198-203. Citation in Schütt, P. & Lang, U. M. (2008): Abies magnifica. In Schütt, Weisgerber, Schuck, Lang, Stimm & Roloff: Lexikon der Nadelbäume. Nikol.

8 Mine, K. (1951): Great Cryptomeria stand at Kaneyama. Akita Regional Forest Office. Citation in Fujimori, T. (1977): Stem biomass and structure of a mature Sequoia sempervirens stand on the Pacific Coast of northern California. Journal of the Japanese Forestry Society 59: 435-41.

9 Smithwick, E. A. H. et al. (2002): Potential upper bounds of carbon stores in forests of the Pacific Northwest. Ecological Applications, 12(5), pp. 1303–1317.

10 Wood Density Database

11 Yamakura, T., Hagihara, A., Sukardjo, S., Ogawa, H. (1986): Tree size in a mature dipterocarp forest stand in Sebulu, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Southeast Asian Studies 23:452–478.


13 Schmidt, P. A. (2002): Bäume und Sträucher Kaukasiens, Teil 1: Einführung und Gymnospermae (Nadelgehölze und sonstige Nacktsamer). Mitt. Dtsch. Dendrol. Ges. 87, 59-81.

14 Calamini, G. et al. (2011): Stand Structure Attributes in Potential Old-Growth Forests in the Apennines, Italy. L’Italia Forestale e Montana 66 (5): 365-381.

15 Koprivica, M. et al. (2010): Estimation of Biomass in a Submontane Beech High Forest in Serbia. Acta Silv. Lign. Hung., Vol. 6: 161-170.