Dynamics of the Pasoh forest in Peninsular Malaysia were assessed by drawing a comparison with a forest in Panama, Central America, whose dynamics have been thoroughly described. Census plots of 50 ha were established at both sites using standard methods. Tree mortality at Pasoh over an eight-year interval was 1.46% yr(-1) for all stems > or = 10 mm diameter at breast height (dbh), and 1.48% yr(-1) for stems > or = 100 mm dbh. Comparable figures at the Barro Colorado Island site in Panama (BCI) were 2.55% and 2.03%. Growth and recruitment rates were likewise considerably higher at BCI than at Pasoh. For example, in all trees 500-700 mm in dbh, mean BCI growth over the period 1985-1995 was 6 mm yr(-1), whereas mean Pasoh growth was about 3.5 mm yr(-1). Examining growth and mortality rates for individual species showed that the difference between the forests can be attributed to a few light-demanding pioneer species at BCI, which have very high growth and mortality; Pasoh is essentially lacking this guild. The bulk of the species in the two forests are shade-tolerant and have very similar mortality, growth and recruitment. The Pasoh forest is more stable than BCI's in another way as well: few of its tree populations changed much over the eight-year census interval. In contrast, at BCI, over 10% of the species had populations increasing or decreasing at a rate of >0.05 yr(-1) compared to just 2% of the species at Pasoh). The faster species turnover at BCI can probably be attributed to severe droughts that have plagued the forest periodically over the past 30 years; Pasoh has not suffered such extreme events recently. The dearth of pioneer species at Pasoh is associated with low-nutrient soil and slow litter breakdown, but the exact mechanisms behind this association remain poorly understood.
Many well-known methods are available for estimating the number of species in a forest community. However, most existing methods result in considerable negative bias in applications, where field surveys typically represent only a small fraction of sampled communities. This article develops a new method based on sampling with replacement to estimate species richness via the generalized jackknife procedure. The proposed estimator yields small bias and reasonably accurate interval estimation even with small samples. The performance of the proposed estimator is compared with several typical estimators via simulation study using two complete census datasets from Panama and Malaysia.
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.
A power law called the species-area relationship describes the finding that the number of species is proportional to the size of the area in which they are found, raised to an exponent (usually, a number between 0.2 and 0.3). In their Perspective, May and Stumpf discuss new results from a survey of five tropical forest census areas containing a total of a million trees. They explain how this large data set can be used to fine-tune the existing power law so that it provides a better prediction of species diversity in small census samples.
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.
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 recurrent patterns in the commonness and rarity of species in ecological communities--the relative species abundance--have puzzled ecologists for more than half a century. Here we show that the framework of the current neutral theory in ecology can easily be generalized to incorporate symmetric density dependence. We can calculate precisely the strength of the rare-species advantage that is needed to explain a given RSA distribution. Previously, we demonstrated that a mechanism of dispersal limitation also fits RSA data well. Here we compare fits of the dispersal and density-dependence mechanisms for empirical RSA data on tree species in six New and Old World tropical forests and show that both mechanisms offer sufficient and independent explanations. We suggest that RSA data cannot by themselves be used to discriminate among these explanations of RSA patterns--empirical studies will be required to determine whether RSA patterns are due to one or the other mechanism, or to some combination of both.
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.
Theories of tropical tree diversity emphasize dispersal limitation as a potential mechanism for separating species in space and reducing competitive exclusion. We compared the dispersal morphologies, fruit sizes, and spatial distributions of 561 tree species within a fully mapped, 50-hectare plot of primary tropical forest in peninsular Malaysia. We demonstrate here that the extent and scale of conspecific spatial aggregation is correlated with the mode of seed dispersal. This relationship holds for saplings as well as for mature trees. Phylogenetically independent contrasts confirm that the relationship between dispersal and spatial pattern is significant even after controlling for common ancestry among species. We found the same qualitative results for a 50-hectare tropical forest plot in Panama. Our results provide broad empirical evidence for the importance of dispersal mode in establishing the long-term community structure of tropical forests.