Growth and Yield Models for Balsa Wood Plantations in the Coastal Lowlands of Ecuador
Balsa trees are native to neotropical forests and frequently grow on fallow, degraded land. Balsa can be used for economic and ecological rehabilitation of farmland with the aim of restoring native forest ecosystems. Although Ecuador is the world's largest producer of balsa, there is a lack of knowledge about production indicators for management of balsa stands in the country. The aim of this study was to develop growth and yield models (i.e., site index (SI) curves and stem volume models) for
... volume models) for balsa plantations in the coastal lowlands of Ecuador. Balsa trees growing in 2161 plots in seven provinces were sampled. Here we present the first growth and yield models for the native, although underutilized, balsa tree. Three curve models were fitted to determine SI for balsa stands, differentiating five site quality classes. Eight volume models were compared to identify the best fit model for balsa stands. The mean annual increment was used to assess balsa production. The generalized algebraic difference approach (GADA) equation yielded one of the best results for the height–age and diameter–age models. The Newnham model was the best volume model for balsa in this comparative study. The maximum annual increment (i.e., for the best stand index) was reached in the second year of plantation. The fitted models can be used to support management decisions regarding balsa plantations. However, the models are preliminary and must be validated with independent samples. Nevertheless, the very fast development of the native balsa tree is particularly promising and should attract more attention from forest owners and politicians.