Wood density profiles reveal a tree’s life strategy and growth. Density profiles are, however, rarely defined in terms of tissue fractions for wood of tropical angiosperm trees. Here, we aim at linking these fractions to corresponding density profiles of tropical trees from the Congo Basin. Cores of 8 tree species were scanned with X-ray Computed Tomography to calculate density profiles. Then, cores were sanded and the outermost 3 cm were used to semi-automatically measure vessel lumen, parenchyma and fibre fractions using the Weka segmentation tool in ImageJ. Fibre wall and lumen widths were measured using a newly developed semi-automated method. An assessment of density variation in function of growth ring boundary detection is done. A mixed regression model estimated the relative contribution of each trait to the density, with a species effect on slope and intercept of the regression. Position-dependent correlations were made between the fractions and the corresponding wood density profile. On average, density profile variation mostly reflects variations in fibre lumen and wall fractions, but these are species- and position-dependent: on some positions, parenchyma and vessels have a more pronounced effect on density. The model linking density to traits explains 92% of the variation, with 65% of the density profile variation attributed to the three measured traits. The remaining 27% is explained by species as a random effect. There is a clear variation between trees and within trees that have implications for interpreting density profiles in angiosperm trees: the exact driving anatomical fraction behind every density value will depend on the position within the core. The underlying function of density will thus vary accordingly.
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