We studied the spatial heterogeneity of tree diversity, and of forest structure and productivity in a highly diverse tropical mountain area in southern Ecuador with the aim of understanding the causes of the large variation in these parameters. Two major environmental gradients, elevation and topography, representing a broad range of climatic and edaphic site conditions, were analyzed. We found the highest species richness of trees in valleys o 2100 m. Valleys showed highest values of basal area, leaf area index and tree basal area increment as well. Tree diversity also increased from ridges to valleys, while canopy openness decreased. Significant relationships existed between tree diversity and soil parameters (pH, total contents of Mg, K, Ca, N and P), and between diversity and the spatial variability of pH and Ca and Mg contents suggesting a dependence of tree diversity on both absolute levels and on the small-scale heterogeneity of soil nutrient availability. Tree diversity and basal area increment were positively correlated, partly because both are similarly affected by soil conditions. We conclude that the extraordinarily high tree species richness in the area is primarily caused by three factors: (1) the existence of steep altitudinal and topographic gradients in a rather limited area creating a small-scale mosaic of edaphically different habitats; (2) the intermingling of Amazonian lowland plant species, that reach their upper distribution limits, and of montane forest species; and (3) the geographical position of the study area between the humid eastern Andean slope and the dry interandean forests of South Ecuador.
The montane forests of Ecuador are part of one of the world's hotspots of biodiversity and they also suffer the highest deforestation rate amongst South American countries. The processes that drive the dynamics of these highly diverse ecosystems are poorly understood. This is particularly true for transient dynamics, which are crucial for the protection and sustainable management of such forests. Dynamic simulation models can be used to analyse the growth of forests, but so far they have been applied mostly to temperate forests and to some few tropical lowland forests. In this study we investigate whether a process-based, individual-oriented simulation model like FORMIND is capable of reproducing the dynamics of tropical montane forests. For this purpose we develop a parameterisation for the model and validate the model against field observations of different (structural) patterns. We then analyse the predicted succession dynamics. The model is capable of reproducing the structure and dynamics of mature ridge forest on different levels of complexity. The main results indicate that, in terms of relative abundances of different species groups and stem size distribution in the tree community, our model predicts the observed patterns in the field. Additional field studies and model modifications are required to simulate the succession processes that follow different types of disturbances. FORMIND is a promising tool for the extrapolation of local measurements and for simulating the dynamics of tropical montane forests. Parameterisations of the model for further forest types within the research area are intended. The model has a number of potential applications, ranging from investigating the impact of (different) natural disturbances on forest structure and tree species diversity to analysing different potential management strategies. Zusammenfassung: Die tropischen Bergregenwälder Ecuadors sind Teil eines der weltweiten Hotspots der Biodiversität und erfahren gleichzeitig die höchste Entwaldungsrate Südamerikas. Das Verständnis der Prozesse, die diese hochdiversen Ökosysteme strukturieren, ist noch lückenhaft. Dies betrifft insbesondere transiente Dynamiken, die entscheidend für den Schutz und ein nachhaltiges Management dieser Wälder sind. Waldwachstumsmodelle untersuchen die Dynamik von Wäldern. Sie wurden allerdings bisher hauptsächlich in temperierten Wäldern und vereinzelt in tropischen Tieflandregenwäldern angewandt. In dieser Studie untersuchen wir die Dynamik eines tropischen Bergregenwaldes mit dem prozess-basierten, individuen-orientierten Simulationsmodell FORMIND. Wir entwickeln eine Parametrisierung des Models und vergleichen unterschiedlich komplexe Muster des simulierten Waldes mit Felddaten. Des Weiteren analysieren wir die Sukzessionsdynamik des Waldes. FORMIND reproduziert die Struktur und Dynamik des ausgewachsenen Gratwalds auf verschiedenen Komplexitätsebenen. Unsere Resultate zeigen eine gute Übereinstimmung von im Feld beobachteten Mustern und Modellergebnissen, insbesondere von relativen Häuf...
In spite of its high diversity the forests in Southern Ecuador are highly endangered by deforestation. One of the main reasons for the loss of forests is the conversion into pastures. Due to their fast degradation, the pastures are abandoned after several years and form an increasing area of unproductive land. The remoteness from existing forest edges is discussed as one reason for the very slow natural reforestation of these areas. In this study we analyzed the regeneration of a secondary forest after approx. 38 years of succession in relation to the distance from the surrounding forest. We revealed that regeneration was rather slow. Especially larger trees with dbh > 10 cm were very scarce. Only Dioicodendron dioicum, GraVenrieda emarginata and Clusia sp. achieved larger diameters. The basal area of the secondary forest is still far beyond the original level in the primary forest. The number of species on plot level and the Shannon index were signiWcantly lower in the secondary forest compared to the primary forest. The total number of species decreased from 47 to 31 with increasing distance from the forest edge and the similarity of species composition to the upper story declined to a level of 56.4 (Sörensen). Alzatea verticillata, Macrocarpea revoluta and Palicourea andaluciana had signiWcantly higher abundances in the succession stages than in the natural forest. The most abundant species in all regeneration plots, G. emarginata and Purdiea nutans, seem to be generalists as they did not show preference either to natural forest or successional stages.
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