Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Trees


Community compensatory trend (CCT) is thought to facilitate persistence of rare species and thus stabilize species composition in tropical forests. However, whether CCT acts over broad geographical ranges is still in question. In this study, we tested for the presence of negative density dependence (NDD) and CCT in three forests along a tropical-temperate gradient. Inventory data were collected from forest communities located in three different latitudinal zones in China. Two widely used methods were used to test for NDD at the community level. The first method considered relationships between the relative abundance ratio and adult abundance. The second method emphasized the effect of adult abundance on abundance of established younger trees. Evidence for NDD acting on different growth forms was tested by using the first method, and the presence of CCT was tested by checking whether adult abundance of rare species affected that of established younger trees less than did abundance of common species. Both analyses indicated that NDD existed in seedling, sapling and pole stages in all three plant communities and that this effect increased with latitude. However, the extent of NDD varied among understory, midstory and canopy trees in the three communities along the gradient. Additionally, despite evidence of NDD for almost all common species, only a portion of rare species showed NDD, supporting the action of CCT in all three communities. So, we conclude that NDD and CCT prevail in the three recruitment stages of the tree communities studied; rare species achieve relative advantage through CCT and thus persist in these communities; CCT clearly facilitates newly established species and maintains tree diversity within communities across our latitudinal gradient.

Concepts: Plant, Forest, Tree, Plant morphology, Rainforest, Trees, Rare species, Common species


In recent decades, invasive willows and poplars (Salicaceae) have built dense floodplain forests along most of the rivers in Patagonia, Argentina. These invasion processes may affect Salix humboldtiana as the only native floodplain tree species in this region. It is assumed, that the property to reproduce vegetatively can play an important role in the establishment of invasive species in their new range. Thus, in order to contribute to a better understanding of willow and poplar invasions in riparian systems and to assess the potential impacts on S. humboldtiana the vegetative reproduction capacities of native and invasive Salicaceae were analysed. In a greenhouse experiment, we studied cutting survival and growth performance of the three most dominant invasive Salicaceae of the Patagonian Río Negro region (two Salix hybrids and Populus spec.), as well as S. humboldtiana, taking into account three different moisture and two different soil conditions. In a subsequent experiment, the shoot and root biomass of cuttings from the former experiment were removed and the bare cuttings were replanted to test their ability to re-sprout. The two invasive willow hybrids performed much better than S. humboldtiana and Populus spec. under all treatment combinations and tended to re-sprout more successfully after repeated biomass loss. Taking into account the ecology of vegetative and generative recruits of floodplain willows, the results indicate that the more vigorous vegetative reproduction capacity can be a crucial property for the success of invasive willow hybrids in Patagonia being a potential threat for S. humboldtiana.

Concepts: Asexual reproduction, Willow, Trees, Salicaceae, Salix caprea


The global extent and distribution of forest trees is central to our understanding of the terrestrial biosphere. We provide the first spatially continuous map of forest tree density at a global scale. This map reveals that the global number of trees is approximately 3.04 trillion, an order of magnitude higher than the previous estimate. Of these trees, approximately 1.39 trillion exist in tropical and subtropical forests, with 0.74 trillion in boreal regions and 0.61 trillion in temperate regions. Biome-level trends in tree density demonstrate the importance of climate and topography in controlling local tree densities at finer scales, as well as the overwhelming effect of humans across most of the world. Based on our projected tree densities, we estimate that over 15 billion trees are cut down each year, and the global number of trees has fallen by approximately 46% since the start of human civilization.

Concepts: Mathematics, Earth, Climate, Forest, Map, Rainforest, Trees, Orders of approximation


The 2012-2015 drought has left California with severely reduced snowpack, soil moisture, ground water, and reservoir stocks, but the impact of this estimated millennial-scale event on forest health is unknown. We used airborne laser-guided spectroscopy and satellite-based models to assess losses in canopy water content of California’s forests between 2011 and 2015. Approximately 10.6 million ha of forest containing up to 888 million large trees experienced measurable loss in canopy water content during this drought period. Severe canopy water losses of greater than 30% occurred over 1 million ha, affecting up to 58 million large trees. Our measurements exclude forests affected by fire between 2011 and 2015. If drought conditions continue or reoccur, even with temporary reprieves such as El Niño, we predict substantial future forest change.

Concepts: Water, Hydrology, Aquifer, Forest ecology, Irrigation, Rainforest, Trees, Names of large numbers


The genus Populus, which includes poplars, cottonwoods and aspen trees, represents a huge natural source of fibers with exceptional physical properties. In this study, the oil absorption properties of poplar seed hair fibers obtained from Populus nigra italica when tested with high-density motor oil and diesel fuel are reported. Poplar seed hair fibers are hollow hydrophobic microtubes with an external diameter between 3 and 12μm, an average length of 4±1mm and average tube wall thickness of 400±100nm. The solid skeleton of the hollow fibers consists of lignocellulosic material coated by a hydrophobic waxy coating. The exceptional chemical, physical and microstructural properties of poplar seed hair fibers enable super-absorbent behavior with high absorption capacity for heavy motor oil and diesel fuel. The absorption values of 182-211g heavy oil/g fiber and 55-60g heavy oil/g fiber for packing densities of 0.005g/cm(3) and 0.02g/cm(3), respectively, surpass all known natural absorbents. Thus, poplar seed hair fibers obtained from Populus nigra italica and other trees of the genus Populus are an extremely promising natural source for the production of oil super absorbents.

Concepts: Petroleum, Aspen, Populus, Populus tremula, Trees, Populus alba, Populus tremuloides, Populus grandidentata


Discrete trees and small groups of trees in nonforest settings are considered an essential resource around the world and are collectively referred to as trees outside forests (ToF). ToF provide important functions across the landscape, such as protecting soil and water resources, providing wildlife habitat, and improving farmstead energy efficiency and aesthetics. Despite the significance of ToF, forest and other natural resource inventory programs and geospatial land cover datasets that are available at a national scale do not include comprehensive information regarding ToF in the United States. Additional ground-based data collection and acquisition of specialized imagery to inventory these resources are expensive alternatives. As a potential solution, we identified two remote sensing-based approaches that use free high-resolution aerial imagery from the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) to map all tree cover in an agriculturally dominant landscape. We compared the results obtained using an unsupervised per-pixel classifier (independent component analysis-[ICA]) and an object-based image analysis (OBIA) procedure in Steele County, Minnesota, USA. Three types of accuracy assessments were used to evaluate how each method performed in terms of: (1) producing a county-level estimate of total tree-covered area, (2) correctly locating tree cover on the ground, and (3) how tree cover patch metrics computed from the classified outputs compared to those delineated by a human photo interpreter. Both approaches were found to be viable for mapping tree cover over a broad spatial extent and could serve to supplement ground-based inventory data. The ICA approach produced an estimate of total tree cover more similar to the photo-interpreted result, but the output from the OBIA method was more realistic in terms of describing the actual observed spatial pattern of tree cover.

Concepts: Tree, Natural resource, Trees, Remote sensing, Aerial photography, National Agriculture Imagery Program


The authentication of Acacia gums samples requires usually the use of sophisticated and time consuming analytical techniques. There is a need for fast and simple analytical techniques for the objective of a quality control methodology. Commercial Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal gums present characteristic MIR spectra. Principal Component Analysis of the infrared spectra of gum exudates of trees allow to distinguish Acacia gums from another gum exudates (Combretum, Ghatti, Karaya, Tragacanth). Moreover, gums of A. senegal and A. seyal separate them and from other Acacia species (Acacia dealbata, Acacia karoo, Acacia nilotica, Acacia sieberiana). Chemometric treatments of A. senegal and A. seyal MIR spectra were assessed for the quantification of moisture content in Acacia gums, for the classification into the two species and for the adulteration detection and quantification. Results were quite satisfactory, the moisture content was estimated at 3.1%, adulteration was detected at 3.4% and quantified at 5.6%. The discrimination of the two species is done without any ambiguity.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Principal component analysis, Infrared spectroscopy, Trees, Acacia, Gum arabic, Acacia nilotica, Acacia dealbata


Sappanwood (Caesalpinia sappan Linn.) is used as an herbal medicine. It is sometimes used to treat skin damage or as a facial cleanser. In the present study, the methanol (MeOH) extract of sappanwood was found to inhibit melanin synthesis in cultured human melanoma HMV-II cells stimulated with forskolin, and six active compounds (1-5 and 7) were isolated from the extract along with a non-active compound (6). Compounds 2-7 were identified as sappanchalcone (2), 3'-deoxy-4-O-methylsappanol (3), brazilein, (4), brazilin (5), sappanol (6), and 4-O-methylsappanol (7). Compound 1 was a new compound, and its structure was determined to be (6aS,11bR)-7,11b-dihydro-6H-indeno[2,1-c]chromene-3,6a,10,11-tetrol by spectroscopic analyses. Among the six active compounds, brazilin (5) (EC50: 3.0 ± 0.5 µM) and 4-O-methylsappanol (7) (EC50: 4.6 ± 0.7 µM) strongly suppressed melanin synthesis in HMV-II cells. Bioactive compounds showed moderate cytotoxicities against HMV-II cells with IC50 values of 83.1 ± 4.0 µM (for 2), 72.0 µM ± 2.4 (for 3), 33.8 ± 1.1 µM (for 4), 18.4 ± 0.8 µM (for 5), and 20.2 ± 0.8 (for 7), respectively. Brazilin (5) selectively suppressed the expression of mRNAs for tyrosinase-related protein (TYRP) 2 and tyrosinase but did not influence the expression of TYRP1. These results suggest that brazilin (5) is a new class of melanin inhibitor and that sappanwood could be used as a cosmetic material.

Concepts: Inhibitor, Melanin, Trees, Suppression, Brazilin, Sappanwood, Brazilwood, Caesalpinia


Water scarcity contributes to the poverty of around one-third of the world’s people. Despite many benefits, tree planting in dry regions is often discouraged by concerns that trees reduce water availability. Yet relevant studies from the tropics are scarce, and the impacts of intermediate tree cover remain unexplored. We developed and tested an optimum tree cover theory in which groundwater recharge is maximized at an intermediate tree density. Below this optimal tree density the benefits from any additional trees on water percolation exceed their extra water use, leading to increased groundwater recharge, while above the optimum the opposite occurs. Our results, based on groundwater budgets calibrated with measurements of drainage and transpiration in a cultivated woodland in West Africa, demonstrate that groundwater recharge was maximised at intermediate tree densities. In contrast to the prevailing view, we therefore find that moderate tree cover can increase groundwater recharge, and that tree planting and various tree management options can improve groundwater resources. We evaluate the necessary conditions for these results to hold and suggest that they are likely to be common in the seasonally dry tropics, offering potential for widespread tree establishment and increased benefits for hundreds of millions of people.

Concepts: Density, Water, Tropics, Hydrology, Groundwater, Season, Rainforest, Trees


The populations of light-demanding trees that dominate the canopy of central African forests are now aging. Here, we show that the lack of regeneration of these populations began ca. 165 ya (around 1850) after major anthropogenic disturbances ceased. Since 1885, less itinerancy and disturbance in the forest has occurred because the colonial administrations concentrated people and villages along the primary communication axes. Local populations formerly gardened the forest by creating scattered openings, which were sufficiently large for the establishment of light-demanding trees. Currently, common logging operations do not create suitable openings for the regeneration of these species, whereas deforestation degrades landscapes. Using an interdisciplinary approach, which included paleoecological, archaeological, historical, and dendrological data, we highlight the long-term history of human activities across central African forests and assess the contribution of these activities to present-day forest structure and composition. The conclusions of this sobering analysis present challenges to current silvicultural practices and to those of the future.

Concepts: Forestry, Forest, Silviculture, World Forestry Congress, Rainforest, Trees, 19th century