Selective logging that is commonly conducted in tropical forests may change tree species diversity. In rarely disturbed tropical forests, locally rare species exhibit higher survival rates. If this non-random process occurs in a logged forest, the forest will rapidly recover its tree species diversity. Here we determined whether a forest in the Pasoh Forest Reserve, Malaysia, which was selectively logged 40 years ago, recovered its original species diversity (species richness and composition). To explore this, we compared the dynamics of secies diversity between unlogged forest plot (18.6 ha) and logged forest plot (5.4 ha). We found that 40 years are not sufficient to recover species diversity after logging. Unlike unlogged forests, tree deaths and recruitments did not contribute to increased diversity in the selectively logged forests. Our results predict that selectively logged forests require a longer time at least than our observing period (40 years) to regain their diversity.
Different mechanisms have been proposed to explain how vertical and horizontal heterogeneity in light conditions enhances tree species coexistence in forest ecosystems. The foliage partitioning theory proposes that differentiation in vertical foliage distribution, caused by an interspecific variation in mortality-to-growth ratio, promotes stable coexistence. In contrast, successional niche theory posits that horizontal light heterogeneity, caused by gap dynamics, enhances species coexistence through an interspecific trade-off between growth rate and survival. To distinguish between these theories of species coexistence, we analyzed tree inventory data for 370 species from the 50-ha plot in Pasoh Forest Reserve, Malaysia. We used community-wide Bayesian models to quantify size-dependent growth rate and mortality of every species. We compared the observed size distributions and the projected distributions from size-dependent demographic rates. We found that the observed size distributions were not simply correlated with the rate of population increase but were related to demographic properties such as size growth rate and mortality. Species with low relative abundance of juveniles in size distribution showed high growth rate and low mortality at small tree sizes and low per-capita recruitment rate. Overall, our findings were in accordance with those predicted by foliage partitioning theory.
In this study, we demonstrated the occurrence of stomatal patchiness and its spatial scale in leaves from various sizes of trees grown in a lowland dipterocarp forest in Peninsular Malaysia. To evaluate the patterns of stomatal behavior, we used three techniques simultaneously to analyze heterobaric or homobaric leaves from five tree species ranging from 0.6 to 31 m in height: (i) diurnal changes in chlorophyll fluorescence imaging, (ii) observation and simulation of leaf gas-exchange rates and (iii) a pressure-infiltration method. Measurements were performed in situ with 1000 or 500 μmol m(-2) s(-1) photosynthetic photon flux density. Diurnal patterns in the spatial distribution of photosynthetic electron transport rate (J) mapped from chlorophyll fluorescence images, a comparison of observed and simulated leaf gas-exchange rates, and the spatial distribution of stomatal apertures obtained from the acid-fuchsin-infiltrated area showed that patchy stomatal closure coupled with severe midday depression of photosynthesis occurred in Neobalanocarpus heimii (King) Ashton, a higher canopy tree with heterobaric leaves due to the higher leaf temperature and vapor pressure deficit. However, subcanopy or understory trees showed uniform stomatal behavior throughout the day, although they also have heterobaric leaves. These results suggest that the occurrence of stomatal patchiness is determined by tree size and/or environmental conditions. The analysis of spatial scale by chlorophyll fluorescence imaging showed that several adjacent anatomical patches (lamina areas bounded by bundle-sheath extensions within the lamina) may co-operate for the distributed patterns of J and stomatal apertures.
The root systems of forest trees are composed of different diameters and heterogeneous physiological traits. However, the pattern of root respiration rates from finer and coarser roots across various tropical species remains unknown. To clarify how respiration is related to the morphological traits of roots, we evaluated specific root respiration and its relationships to mean root diameter (D) of various diameter and root tissue density (RTD; root mass per unit root volume; gcm(-3)) and specific root length (SRL; root length per unit root mass; mg(-1)) of the fine roots among and within 14 trees of 13 species from a primary tropical rainforest in the Pasoh Forest Reserve in Peninsular Malaysia. Coarse root (2-269mm) respiration rates increased with decreasing D, resulting in significant relationships between root respiration and diameter across species. A model based on a radial gradient of respiration rates of coarse roots simulated the exponential decrease in respiration with diameter. The respiration rate of fine roots (<2mm) was much higher and more variable than those of larger diameter roots. For fine roots, the mean respiration rates for each species increased with decreasing D. The respiration rates of fine roots declined markedly with increasing RTD and increased with increasing SRL, which explained a significant portion of the variation in the respiration among the 14 trees from 13 species examined. Our results indicate that coarse root respiration in tree species follows a basic relationship with D across species and that most of the variation in fine root respiration among species is explained by D, RTD and SRL. We found that the relationship between root respiration and morphological traits provides a quantitative basis for separating fine roots from coarse roots and that the pattern holds across different species.
Tropical peat swamp forest (PSF) is a unique wetland ecosystem with distinct vegetation types. Due to the waterlogged environment, the stand characteristics in this ecosystem are different from those of other inland forests. This paper highlights stand characteristics of a PSF based on our investigation of a 1 ha ecological plot established in a Virgin Jungle Reserve (VJR) at Compartment 100, Pekan Forest Reserve, Pahang, Malaysia. This site is considered a Gonystylus bancanus-rich area. From the inventory, we recorded a total of 49 tree species from 38 genera and 25 families among all trees of ≥ 10 cm in diameter at breast height. Calophyllum ferrugineum var. ferrugineum was the most abundant species, followed by G. bancanus. The forest appeared healthy, as all tree characteristics (crown shape, log grade and climber infestation) generally fell within Classes 1 and 2 (good and moderate categories), with the exception of crown illumination which majority of the trees were rated as class 3 (received less sunlight). The latter finding indicates that most of the trees living under the canopy received minimal illumination. In terms of total tree biomass, we estimated that about 414.6 tonnes exist in this 1 ha area; this tree biomass is higher than in some PSF areas of Sumatra, Indonesia.
The impacts of global change on tropical forests remain poorly understood. We examined changes in tree growth rates over the past two decades for all species occurring in large (50-ha) forest dynamics plots in Panama and Malaysia. Stem growth rates declined significantly at both forests regardless of initial size or organizational level (species, community or stand). Decreasing growth rates were widespread, occurring in 24-71% of species at Barro Colorado Island, Panama (BCI) and in 58-95% of species at Pasoh, Malaysia (depending on the sizes of stems included). Changes in growth were not consistently associated with initial growth rate, adult stature, or wood density. Changes in growth were significantly associated with regional climate changes: at both sites growth was negatively correlated with annual mean daily minimum temperatures, and at BCI growth was positively correlated with annual precipitation and number of rainfree days (a measure of relative insolation). While the underlying cause(s) of decelerating growth is still unresolved, these patterns strongly contradict the hypothesized pantropical increase in tree growth rates caused by carbon fertilization. Decelerating tree growth will have important economic and environmental implications.
Accurate estimation of tree biomass is necessary to provide realistic values of the carbon stored in the terrestrial biosphere. A recognized source of errors in tree aboveground biomass (AGB) estimation is introduced when individual tree height values (H) are not directly measured but estimated from diameter at breast height (DBH) using allometric equations. In this paper, we evaluate the performance of 12 alternative DBH : H equations and compare their effects on AGB estimation for three tropical forests that occur in contrasting climatic and altitudinal zones. We found that fitting a three-parameter Weibull function using data collected locally generated the lowest errors and bias in H estimation, and that equations fitted to these data were more accurate than equations with parameters derived from the literature. For computing AGB, the introduced error values differed notably among DBH : H allometric equations, and in most cases showed a clear bias that resulted in either over- or under-estimation of AGB. Fitting the three-parameter Weibull function minimized errors in AGB estimates in our study and we recommend its widespread adoption for carbon stock estimation. We conclude that many previous studies are likely to present biased estimates of AGB due to the method of H estimation.
The response of tropical forests to global climate variability and change remains poorly understood. Results from long-term studies of permanent forest plots have reported different, and in some cases opposing trends in tropical forest dynamics. In this study, we examined changes in tree growth rates at four long-term permanent tropical forest research plots in relation to variation in solar radiation, temperature and precipitation. Temporal variation in the stand-level growth rates measured at five-year intervals was found to be positively correlated with variation in incoming solar radiation and negatively related to temporal variation in night-time temperatures. Taken alone, neither solar radiation variability nor the effects of night-time temperatures can account for the observed temporal variation in tree growth rates across sites, but when considered together, these two climate variables account for most of the observed temporal variability in tree growth rates. Further analysis indicates that the stand-level response is primarily driven by the responses of smaller-sized trees (less than 20 cm in diameter). The combined temperature and radiation responses identified in this study provide a potential explanation for the conflicting patterns in tree growth rates found in previous studies.
The responses of tropical forests to global anthropogenic disturbances remain poorly understood. Above-ground woody biomass in some tropical forest plots has increased over the past several decades, potentially reflecting a widespread response to increased resource availability, for example, due to elevated atmospheric CO2 and/or nutrient deposition. However, previous studies of biomass dynamics have not accounted for natural patterns of disturbance and gap phase regeneration, making it difficult to quantify the importance of environmental changes. Using spatially explicit census data from large (50 ha) inventory plots, we investigated the influence of gap phase processes on the biomass dynamics of four 'old-growth' tropical forests (Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama; Pasoh and Lambir, Malaysia; and Huai Kha Khaeng (HKK), Thailand). We show that biomass increases were gradual and concentrated in earlier-phase forest patches, while biomass losses were generally of greater magnitude but concentrated in rarer later-phase patches. We then estimate the rate of biomass change at each site independent of gap phase dynamics using reduced major axis regressions and ANCOVA tests. Above-ground woody biomass increased significantly at Pasoh (+0.72% yr(-1)) and decreased at HKK (-0.56% yr(-1)) independent of changes in gap phase but remained stable at both BCI and Lambir. We conclude that gap phase processes play an important role in the biomass dynamics of tropical forests, and that quantifying the role of gap phase processes will help improve our understanding of the factors driving changes in forest biomass as well as their place in the global carbon budget.
The maintenance of mixed mating was studied in Shorea curtisii, a dominant and widely distributed dipterocarp species in Southeast Asia. Paternity and hierarchical Bayesian analyses were used to estimate the parameters of pollen dispersal kernel, male fecundity and self-pollen affinity. We hypothesized that partial self incompatibility and/or inbreeding depression reduce the number of selfed seeds if the mother trees receive sufficient pollen, whereas reproductive assurance increases the numbers of selfed seeds under low amounts of pollen. Comparison of estimated parameters of self-pollen affinity between high density undisturbed and low density selectively logged forests indicated that self-pollen was selectively excluded from mating in the former, probably due to partial self incompatibility or inbreeding depression until seed maturation. By estimating the self-pollen affinity of each mother tree in both forests, mother trees with higher amount of self-pollen indicated significance of self-pollen affinity with negative estimated value. The exclusion of self-fertilization and/or inbreeding depression during seed maturation occurred in the mother trees with large female fecundity, whereas reproductive assurance increased self-fertilization in the mother trees with lower female fecundity.
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.
Tree mortality rates appear to be increasing in moist tropical forests (MTFs) with significant carbon cycle consequences. Here, we review the state of knowledge regarding MTF tree mortality, create a conceptual framework with testable hypotheses regarding the drivers, mechanisms and interactions that may underlie increasing MTF mortality rates, and identify the next steps for improved understanding and reduced prediction. Increasing mortality rates are associated with rising temperature and vapor pressure deficit, liana abundance, drought, wind events, fire and, possibly, CO2 fertilization-induced increases in stand thinning or acceleration of trees reaching larger, more vulnerable heights. The majority of these mortality drivers may kill trees in part through carbon starvation and hydraulic failure. The relative importance of each driver is unknown. High species diversity may buffer MTFs against large-scale mortality events, but recent and expected trends in mortality drivers give reason for concern regarding increasing mortality within MTFs. Models of tropical tree mortality are advancing the representation of hydraulics, carbon and demography, but require more empirical knowledge regarding the most common drivers and their subsequent mechanisms. We outline critical datasets and model developments required to test hypotheses regarding the underlying causes of increasing MTF mortality rates, and improve prediction of future mortality under climate change.
Survival rates of large trees determine forest biomass dynamics. Survival rates of small trees have been linked to mechanisms that maintain biodiversity across tropical forests. How species survival rates change with size offers insight into the links between biodiversity and ecosystem function across tropical forests. We tested patterns of size-dependent tree survival across the tropics using data from 1,781 species and over 2 million individuals to assess whether tropical forests can be characterized by size-dependent life-history survival strategies. We found that species were classifiable into four 'survival modes' that explain life-history variation that shapes carbon cycling and the relative abundance within forests. Frequently collected functional traits, such as wood density, leaf mass per area and seed mass, were not generally predictive of the survival modes of species. Mean annual temperature and cumulative water deficit predicted the proportion of biomass of survival modes, indicating important links between evolutionary strategies, climate and carbon cycling. The application of survival modes in demographic simulations predicted biomass change across forest sites. Our results reveal globally identifiable size-dependent survival strategies that differ across diverse systems in a consistent way. The abundance of survival modes and interaction with climate ultimately determine forest structure, carbon storage in biomass and future forest trajectories.