Aim Tropical forests store 25% of global carbon and harbour 96% of the world's tree species, but it is not clear whether this high biodiversity matters for carbon storage. Few studies have teased apart the relative importance of forest attributes and environmental drivers for ecosystem functioning, and no such study exists for the tropics. Location Neotropics. Methods We relate aboveground biomass (AGB) to forest attributes (diversity and structure) and environmental drivers (annual rainfall and soil fertility) using data from 144,000 trees, 2050 forest plots and 59 forest sites. The sites span the complete latitudinal and climatic gradients in the lowland Neotropics, with rainfall ranging from 750 to 4350 mm year−1. Relationships were analysed within forest sites at scales of 0.1 and 1 ha and across forest sites along large‐scale environmental gradients. We used a structural equation model to test the hypothesis that species richness, forest structural attributes and environmental drivers have independent, positive effects on AGB. Results Across sites, AGB was most strongly driven by rainfall, followed by average tree stem diameter and rarefied species richness, which all had positive effects on AGB. Our indicator of soil fertility (cation exchange capacity) had a negligible effect on AGB, perhaps because we used a global soil database. Taxonomic forest attributes (i.e. species richness, rarefied richness and Shannon diversity) had the strongest relationships with AGB at small spatial scales, where an additional species can still make a difference in terms of niche complementarity, while structural forest attributes (i.e. tree density and tree size) had strong relationships with AGB at all spatial scales. Main conclusions Biodiversity has an independent, positive effect on AGB and ecosystem functioning, not only in relatively simple temperate systems but also in structurally complex hyperdiverse tropical forests. Biodiversity conservation should therefore be a key component of the UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation strategy.
Aim: Tropical forests account for a quarter of the global carbon storage and a third of the terrestrial productivity. Few studies have teased apart the relative importance of environmental factors and forest attributes for ecosystem functioning, especially for the tropics. This study aims to relate
While around 20% of the Amazonian forest has been cleared for pastures and agriculture, one fourth of the remaining forest is dedicated to wood production. Most of these production forests have been or will be selectively harvested for commercial timber, but recent studies show that even soon after logging, harvested stands retain much of their tree-biomass carbon and biodiversity. Comparing species richness of various animal taxa among logged and unlogged forests across the tropics, Burivalova et al. found that despite some variability among taxa, biodiversity loss was generally explained by logging intensity (the number of trees extracted). Here, we use a network of 79 permanent sample plots (376 ha total) located at 10 sites across the Amazon Basin to assess the main drivers of time-to-recovery of post-logging tree carbon (Table S1). Recovery time is of direct relevance to policies governing management practices (i.e., allowable volumes cut and cutting cycle lengths), and indirectly to forest-based climate change mitigation interventions.
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.
Around 30 Mm 3 of sawlogs are extracted annually by selective logging of natural production forests in Amazonia, Earth's most extensive tropical forest. Decisions concerning the management of these production forests will be of major importance for Amazonian forests' fate. To date, no regional assessment of selective logging sustainability supports decision-making. Based on data from 3500 ha of forest inventory plots, our modelling results show that the average periodic harvests of 20 m 3 ha −1 will not recover by the end of a standard 30 year cutting cycle. Timber recovery within a cutting cycle is enhanced by commercial acceptance of more species and with the adoption of longer cutting cycles and lower logging intensities. Recovery rates are faster in Western Amazonia than on the Guiana Shield. Our simulations suggest that regardless of cutting cycle duration and logging intensities, selectively logged forests are unlikely to meet timber demands over the long term as timber stocks are predicted to steadily decline. There is thus an urgent need to develop an integrated forest resource management policy that combines active management of production forests with the restoration of degraded and secondary forests for timber production. Without better management, reduced timber harvests and continued timber production declines are unavoidable.
When 2 Mha of Amazonian forests are disturbed by selective logging each year, more than 90 Tg of carbon (C) is emitted to the atmosphere. Emissions are then counterbalanced by forest regrowth. With an original modelling approach, calibrated on a network of 133 permanent forest plots (175 ha total) across Amazonia, we link regional differences in climate, soil and initial biomass with survivors’ and recruits’ C fluxes to provide Amazon-wide predictions of post-logging C recovery. We show that net aboveground C recovery over 10 years is higher in the Guiana Shield and in the west (21 ±3 Mg C ha-1) than in the south (12 ±3 Mg C ha-1) where environmental stress is high (low rainfall, high seasonality). We highlight the key role of survivors in the forest regrowth and elaborate a comprehensive map of post-disturbance C recovery potential in Amazonia.DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.21394.001
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