Shifting dynamics of climate-functional groups in old-growth Amazonian forests

Nathalie Butt, Yadvinder Malhi, Mark New, Manuel J. Macia, Simon L. Lewis, Gabriela Lopez-Gonzalez, William F. Laurance, Susan Laurance, Regina Luizao, Ana Andrade, Timothy R. Baker, Samuel Almeida, Oliver L. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Climate change is driving ecosystem shifts, which has implications for tropical forest system function and productivity.

Aim: To investigate Amazon forest dynamics and test for compositional changes between 1985 and 2005 across different plant groups.

Methods: Tree census data from 46 long-term RAINFOR forest plots in Amazonia for three climate-functional groups were used: dry-affiliate, climate-generalist and wet affiliate. Membership of each group was ascribed at genus level from the distribution of individuals across a wet-dry gradient in Amazonia, and then used to determine whether the proportions of these functional groups have changed over time, and the direction of any change.

Results: In total, 91 genera, representing 59% of the stems and 18% of genera in the plots, were analysed. Wet-affiliates tended to move from a state of net basal area gain towards dynamic equilibrium, defined as where gain approximate to loss, governed by an increase in loss rather than a decrease in growth and mainly driven by plots in north-west Amazonia, the wettest part of the region. Dry-affiliates remained in a state of strong net basal area gain across western Amazonia and showed a strong increase in stem recruitment. Wet-affiliates and climate-generalists showed increases in stem mortality, and climate-generalists showed increased stem recruitment, resulting in overall equilibrium of stem numbers.

Conclusions: While there were no significant shifts in most genera, the results suggest an overall shift in climate-functional forest composition in western Amazonia away from wet-affiliates, and potential for increased forest persistence under projected drier conditions in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-279
Number of pages13
JournalPlant Ecology & Diversity
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • climate trends
  • forest composition
  • moisture affiliation
  • moisture seasonality
  • tropical forest
  • TREE

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