Fully mapped tree census plots of large area, 25 to 52 hectares, have now been completed at six different sites in tropical forests, including dry deciduous to wet evergreen forest on two continents. One of the main goals of these plots has been to evaluate spatial patterns in tropical tree populations. Here the degree of aggregation in the distribution of 1768 tree species is examined based on the average density of conspecific trees in circular neighborhoods around each tree. When all individuals larger than 1 centimeter in stem diameter were included, nearly every species was more aggregated than a random distribution. Considering only larger trees (>/= 10 centimeters in diameter), the pattern persisted, with most species being more aggregated than random. Rare species were more aggregated than common species. All six forests were very similar in all the particulars of these results.
Documenting the scale and intensity of fine-scale spatial genetic structure (FSGS), and the processes that shape it, is relevant to the sustainable management of genetic resources in timber tree species, particularly where logging or fragmentation might disrupt gene flow. In this study we assessed patterns of FSGS in three species of Dipterocarpaceae (Parashorea tomentella, Shorea leprosula and Shorea parvifolia) across four different tropical rain forests in Malaysia using nuclear microsatellite markers. Topographic heterogeneity varied across the sites. We hypothesised that forests with high topographic heterogeneity would display increased FSGS among the adult populations driven by habitat associations. This hypothesis was not supported for S. leprosula and S. parvifolia which displayed little variation in the intensity and scale of FSGS between sites despite substantial variation in topographic heterogeneity. Conversely, the intensity of FSGS for P. tomentella was greater at a more topographically heterogeneous than a homogeneous site, and a significant difference in the overall pattern of FSGS was detected between sites for this species. These results suggest that local patterns of FSGS may in some species be shaped by habitat heterogeneity in addition to limited gene flow by pollen and seed dispersal. Site factors can therefore contribute to the development of FSGS. Confirming consistency in species' FSGS amongst sites is an important step in managing timber tree genetic diversity as it provides confidence that species specific management recommendations based on species reproductive traits can be applied across a species' range. Forest managers should take into account the interaction between reproductive traits and site characteristics, its consequences for maintaining forest genetic resources and how this might influence natural regeneration across species if management is to be sustainable.
In Amazonian tropical forests, recent studies have reported increases in aboveground biomass and in primary productivity, as well as shifts in plant species composition favouring fast-growing species over slow-growing ones. This pervasive alteration of mature tropical forests was attributed to global environmental change, such as an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, nutrient deposition, temperature, drought frequency, and/or irradiance. We used standardized, repeated measurements of over 2 million trees in ten large (16-52 ha each) forest plots on three continents to evaluate the generality of these findings across tropical forests. Aboveground biomass increased at seven of our ten plots, significantly so at four plots, and showed a large decrease at a single plot. Carbon accumulation pooled across sites was significant (+0.24 MgC ha(-1) y(-1), 95% confidence intervals [0.07, 0.39] MgC ha(-1) y(-1)), but lower than reported previously for Amazonia. At three sites for which we had data for multiple census intervals, we found no concerted increase in biomass gain, in conflict with the increased productivity hypothesis. Over all ten plots, the fastest-growing quartile of species gained biomass (+0.33 [0.09, 0.55] % y(-1)) compared with the tree community as a whole (+0.15 % y(-1)); however, this significant trend was due to a single plot. Biomass of slow-growing species increased significantly when calculated over all plots (+0.21 [0.02, 0.37] % y(-1)), and in half of our plots when calculated individually. Our results do not support the hypothesis that fast-growing species are consistently increasing in dominance in tropical tree communities. Instead, they suggest that our plots may be simultaneously recovering from past disturbances and affected by changes in resource availability. More long-term studies are necessary to clarify the contribution of global change to the functioning of tropical forests.
The high species richness of tropical forests has long been recognized, yet there remains substantial uncertainty regarding the actual number of tropical tree species. Using a pantropical tree inventory database from closed canopy forests, consisting of 657,630 trees belonging to 11,371 species, we use a fitted value of Fisher's alpha and an approximate pantropical stem total to estimate the minimum number of tropical forest tree species to fall between ∼ 40,000 and ∼ 53,000, i.e., at the high end of previous estimates. Contrary to common assumption, the Indo-Pacific region was found to be as species-rich as the Neotropics, with both regions having a minimum of ∼ 19,000-25,000 tree species. Continental Africa is relatively depauperate with a minimum of ∼ 4,500-6,000 tree species. Very few species are shared among the African, American, and the Indo-Pacific regions. We provide a methodological framework for estimating species richness in trees that may help refine species richness estimates of tree-dependent taxa.