Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 503797
Title Old-growth Neotropical forests are shifting in species and trait composition
Author(s) Sande, M.T. van der; Arets, E.J.M.M.; Pena Claros, M.; Avila, L.A.; Roopsind, A.; Mazzei, L.; Ascarrunz, N.; Finegan, Bryan; Alarcon, A.; Caceres-Siani, Yasmani; Licona, J.C.; Ruschel, A.R.; Toledo, Marisol; Poorter, L.
Source Ecological Monographs 86 (2016)2. - ISSN 0012-9615 - p. 228 - 243.
Department(s) Forest Ecology and Forest Management
Alterra - Vegetation, forest and landscape ecology
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2016
Keyword(s) disturbance; drought; environmental gradients; forest dynamics; functional traits; global change; rainfall; resource availability; soil fertility.
Abstract Tropical forests have long been thought to be in stable state, but recent
insights indicate that global change is leading to shifts in forest dynamics and species composition. These shifts may be driven by environmental changes such as increased resource availability, increased drought stress, and/or recovery from past disturbances.
The relative importance of these drivers can be inferred from analyzing changes in trait values of tree communities. Here, we evaluate a decade of change in species and trait composition across five old-growth Neotropical forests in Bolivia, Brazil, Guyana, and Costa Rica that cover large gradients in rainfall and soil fertility. To identify the drivers of compositional change, we used data from 29 permanent sample plots and measurements of 15 leaf, stem, and whole-plant
traits that are important for plant performance and should respond to global change drivers. We found that forests differ strongly in their community-mean
trait values, resulting from differences in soil fertility and annual rainfall seasonality. The abundance of deciduous species with high specific leaf area
increases from wet to dry forests. The community-mean wood density is high in the driest forests to protect xylem vessels against drought cavitation, and is high in nutrient-poor forests to increase wood longevity and enhance nutrient residence time in the plant. Interestingly, the species composition changed over time in three of the forests, and the community-mean wood density increased and the specific leaf area decreased in all forests, indicating that these forests are changing toward later successional stages dominated by slow-growing,
shade-tolerant species. We did not see changes in other traits that could reflect responses to increased drought stress, such as increased drought deciduousness
or decreased maximum adult size, or that could reflect increased resource availability (CO2, rainfall, or nitrogen). Changes in species and trait composition in these forests are therefore most likely caused by recovery from past disturbances. These compositional changes may also lead to shifts in ecosystem processes, such as a lower carbon sequestration and “slower” forest dynamics.
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