How individual species structure diversity in tropical forests.
ABSTRACT: A persistent challenge in ecology is to explain the high diversity of tree species in tropical forests. Although the role of species characteristics in maintaining tree diversity in tropical forests has been the subject of theory and debate for decades, spatial patterns in local diversity have not been analyzed from the viewpoint of individual species. To measure scale-dependent local diversity structures around individual species, we propose individual species-area relationships (ISAR), a spatial statistic that marries common species-area relationships with Ripley's K to measure the expected alpha diversity in circular neighborhoods with variable radius around an arbitrary individual of a target species. We use ISAR to investigate if and at which spatial scales individual species increase in tropical forests' local diversity (accumulators), decrease local diversity (repellers), or behave neutrally. Our analyses of data from Barro Colorado Island (Panama) and Sinharaja (Sri Lanka) reveal that individual species leave identifiable signatures on spatial diversity, but only on small spatial scales. Most species showed neutral behavior outside neighborhoods of 20 m. At short scales (<20 m), we observed, depending on the forest type, two strongly different roles of species: diversity repellers dominated at Barro Colorado Island and accumulators at Sinharaja. Nevertheless, we find that the two tropical forests lacked any key species structuring species diversity at larger scales, suggesting that "balanced" species-species interactions may be a characteristic of these species-rich forests. We anticipate our analysis method will be a starting point for more powerful investigations of spatial structures in diversity to promote a better understanding of biodiversity in tropical forests.
Project description:Ecologists have historically used species-area relationships (SARs) as a tool to understand the spatial distribution of species. Recent work has extended SARs to focus on individual-level distributions to generate individual species area relationships (ISARs). The ISAR approach quantifies whether individuals of a species tend have more or less species richness surrounding them than expected by chance. By identifying richness 'accumulators' and 'repellers', respectively, the ISAR approach has been used to infer the relative importance of abiotic and biotic interactions and neutrality. A clear limitation of the SAR and ISAR approaches is that all species are treated as evolutionarily independent and that a large amount of work has now shown that local tree neighborhoods exhibit non-random phylogenetic structure given the species richness. Here, we use nine tropical and temperate forest dynamics plots to ask: (i) do ISARs change predictably across latitude?; (ii) is the phylogenetic diversity in the neighborhood of species accumulators and repellers higher or lower than that expected given the observed species richness?; and (iii) do species accumulators, repellers distributed non-randomly on the community phylogenetic tree? The results indicate no clear trend in ISARs from the temperate zone to the tropics and that the phylogenetic diversity surrounding the individuals of species is generally only non-random on very local scales. Interestingly the distribution of species accumulators and repellers was non-random on the community phylogenies suggesting the presence of phylogenetic signal in the ISAR across latitude.
Project description:The spatial structure of species richness is often characterized by the species-area relationship (SAR). However, the SAR approach rarely considers the spatial variability of individual plants that arises from species interactions and species' habitat associations. Here, we explored how the interactions of individual plants of target species influence SAR patterns at a range of neighborhood distances. We analyzed the data of 113,988 woody plants of 110 species from the Fushan Forest Dynamics Plot (25 ha), northern Taiwan, which is a subtropical rainforest heavily influenced by typhoons. We classified 34 dominant species into 3 species types (i.e., accumulator, repeller, or no effect) by testing how the individual species-area relationship (i.e., statistics describing how neighborhood species richness changes around individuals) of target species departs (i.e., positively, negatively, or with no obvious trend) from a null model that accounts for habitat association. Deviation from the null model suggests that the net effect of species' interactions increases (accumulate) or decreases (repel) neighborhood species richness. We found that (i) accumulators were dominant at small interaction distances (<10-30 m); (ii) the detection of accumulator species was lower at large interaction distances (>30 m); (iii) repellers were rarely detected; and (iv) large-sized and abundant species tended to be accumulators. The findings suggest that positive species interactions have the potential to accumulate neighborhood species richness, particularly through size- and density-dependent mechanisms. We hypothesized that the frequently disturbed environment of this subtropical rainforest (e.g., typhoon-driven natural disturbances such as landslides, soil erosion, flooding, and windthrow) might create the spatial heterogeneity of species richness and promote positive species interactions.
Project description:Subtropical and tropical forests are biodiversity hotspots, and untangling the spatial scaling of their diversity is fundamental for understanding global species richness and conserving biodiversity essential to human well-being. However, scale-dependent diversity distributions among coexisting taxa remain poorly understood for heterogeneous environments in biodiverse regions. We show that diversity relations among 43 taxa-including plants, arthropods and microorganisms-in a mountainous subtropical forest are highly nonlinear across spatial scales. Taxon-specific differences in ?-diversity cause under- or overestimation of overall diversity by up to 50% when using surrogate taxa such as plants. Similar relationships may apply to half of all (sub)tropical forests-including major biodiversity hotspots-where high environmental heterogeneity causes high biodiversity and species turnover. Our study highlights that our general understanding of biodiversity patterns has to be improved-and that much larger areas will be required than in better-studied lowland forests-to reliably estimate biodiversity distributions and devise conservation strategies for the world's biodiverse regions.
Project description:Natural enemies of plants such as insect herbivores can contribute to structuring and maintaining plant diversity in tropical forests. Most research in this area has focused on the role of specialized enemies and the extent to which herbivory on individual plant species is density-dependent. Relatively few insect herbivores specialize on a single host plant species. Insect herbivores that feed on more than one plant species may link the regeneration dynamics of their host species through "apparent competition" or "apparent mutualism." We investigated herbivory and survival of seedlings of two tropical tree species (Cordia alliodora and Cordia bicolor) in the forests of Barro Colorado Island (Panama). We used experiments and observations to assess seedling fate in relation to the presence of conspecifics and heterospecifics across a range of spatial scales. Herbivory significantly increased seedling mortality and was highest at high local densities of C. alliodora seedlings. There was also evidence that high local densities of C. alliodora increased herbivory on co-occurring C. bicolor seedlings. Synthesis. The elevated rates of seedling herbivory at high densities of conspecifics documented in our study are consistent with the predictions of the Janzen-Connell hypothesis, which explains how so many plant species can coexist in tropical forests. Our data also highlight the possibility that herbivore-mediated density-dependence, facilitated by herbivores that feed on multiple plant species, can also occur across plant species. Enemy-mediated indirect effects of this sort have the potential to structure plant communities.
Project description:The high diversity of tree species has traditionally been considered an important controller of belowground processes in tropical rainforests. However, soil water availability and resources are also primary regulators of soil bacteria in many ecosystems. Separating the effects of these biotic and abiotic factors in the tropics is challenging because of their high spatial and temporal heterogeneity. To determine the drivers of tropical soil bacteria, we examined tree species effects using experimental tree monocultures and secondary forests at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica. A randomized block design captured spatial variation and we sampled at four dates across two years to assess temporal variation. We measured bacteria richness, phylogenetic diversity, community composition, biomass, and functional potential. All bacteria parameters varied significantly across dates. In addition, bacteria richness and phylogenetic diversity were affected by the interaction of vegetation type and date, whereas bacteria community composition was affected by the interaction of vegetation type and block. Shifts in bacteria community richness and composition were unrelated to shifts in enzyme function, suggesting physiological overlap among taxa. Based on the observed temporal and spatial heterogeneity, our understanding of tropical soil bacteria will benefit from additional work to determine the optimal temporal and spatial scales for sampling. Understanding spatial and temporal variation will facilitate prediction of how tropical soil microbes will respond to future environmental change.
Project description:Plant-plant interactions are among the fundamental processes that shape structure and functioning of arid and semi-arid plant communities. Despite the large amount of studies that have assessed the relationship between plant-plant interactions (i.e., facilitation and competition) and diversity, often researchers forget a third kind of interaction, known as allelopathy. We examined the effect of plant-plant interactions of three dominant species: the perennial grass Lygeum spartum, the allelopathic dwarf shrub Artemisia herba-alba, and the nurse shrub Salsola vermiculata, on plant diversity and species composition in a semi-arid ecosystem in NE Spain. Specifically, we quantified the interaction outcome (IO) based on species co-occurrence, we analyzed diversity by calculation of the individual species-area relationship (ISAR), and compositional changes by calculation of the Chao-Jaccard similarity index. We found that S. vermiculata had more positive IO values than L. spartum, and A. herba-alba had values between them. Lygeum spartum and A. herba-alba acted as diversity repellers, whereas S. vermiculata acted as a diversity accumulator. As aridity increased, A. herba-alba transitioned from diversity repeller to neutral and S. vermiculata transitioned from neutral to diversity accumulator, while L. spartum remained as diversity repeller. Artemisia herba-alba had more perennial grass species in its local neighborhood than expected by the null model, suggesting some tolerance of this group to its "chemical neighbor". Consequently, species that coexist with A. herba-alba were very similar among different A. herba-alba individuals. Our findings highlight the role of the nurse shrub S. vermiculata as ecosystem engineer, creating and maintaining patches of diversity, as well as the complex mechanism that an allelopathic plant may have on diversity and species assemblage. Further research is needed to determine the relative importance of allelopathy and competition in the overall interference of allelopathic plants.
Project description:Biodiversity assessment of tropical taxa is hampered by their tremendous richness, which leads to large numbers of singletons and incomplete inventories in survey studies. Species estimators can be used for assessment of alpha diversity, but calculation of beta diversity is hampered by pseudo-turnover of species in undersampled plots. To assess the impact of unseen species, we investigated different methods, including an unbiased estimator of Shannon beta diversity that was compared to biased calculations. We studied alpha and beta diversity of a diverse ground ant assemblage from the Southeast Asian island of Borneo in different types of tropical forest: diperocarp forest, alluvial forest, limestone forest and heath forests. Forests varied in plant composition, geology, flooding regimes and other environmental parameters. We tested whether forest types differed in species composition and if species turnover was a function of the distance between plots at different spatial scales. As pseudo-turnover may bias beta diversity we hypothesized a large effect of unseen species reducing beta diversity. We sampled 206 ant species (25% singletons) from ten subfamilies and 55 genera. Diversity partitioning among the four forest types revealed that whereas alpha species richness and alpha Shannon diversity were significantly smaller than expected, beta-diversity for both measurements was significantly higher than expected by chance. This result was confirmed when we used the unbiased estimation of Shannon diversity: while alpha diversity was much higher, beta diversity differed only slightly from biased calculations. Beta diversity as measured with the Chao-Sørensen or Morisita-Horn Index correlated with distance between transects and between sample points, indicating a distance decay of similarity between communities. We conclude that habitat heterogeneity has a high influence on ant diversity and species turnover in tropical sites and that unseen species may have only little impact on calculation of Shannon beta diversity when sampling effort has been high.
Project description:For efficient use of conservation resources it is important to determine how species diversity changes across spatial scales. In many poorly known species groups little is known about at which spatial scales the conservation efforts should be focused. Here we examined how the community turnover of wood-inhabiting fungi is realised at three hierarchical levels, and how much of community variation is explained by variation in resource composition and spatial proximity. The hierarchical study design consisted of management type (fixed factor), forest site (random factor, nested within management type) and study plots (randomly placed plots within each study site). To examine how species richness varied across the three hierarchical scales, randomized species accumulation curves and additive partitioning of species richness were applied. To analyse variation in wood-inhabiting species and dead wood composition at each scale, linear and Permanova modelling approaches were used. Wood-inhabiting fungal communities were dominated by rare and infrequent species. The similarity of fungal communities was higher within sites and within management categories than among sites or between the two management categories, and it decreased with increasing distance among the sampling plots and with decreasing similarity of dead wood resources. However, only a small part of community variation could be explained by these factors. The species present in managed forests were in a large extent a subset of those species present in natural forests. Our results suggest that in particular the protection of rare species requires a large total area. As managed forests have only little additional value complementing the diversity of natural forests, the conservation of natural forests is the key to ecologically effective conservation. As the dissimilarity of fungal communities increases with distance, the conserved natural forest sites should be broadly distributed in space, yet the individual conserved areas should be large enough to ensure local persistence.
Project description:Tropical forests are global centres of biodiversity and carbon storage. Many tropical countries aspire to protect forest to fulfil biodiversity and climate mitigation policy targets, but the conservation strategies needed to achieve these two functions depend critically on the tropical forest tree diversity-carbon storage relationship. Assessing this relationship is challenging due to the scarcity of inventories where carbon stocks in aboveground biomass and species identifications have been simultaneously and robustly quantified. Here, we compile a unique pan-tropical dataset of 360 plots located in structurally intact old-growth closed-canopy forest, surveyed using standardised methods, allowing a multi-scale evaluation of diversity-carbon relationships in tropical forests. Diversity-carbon relationships among all plots at 1?ha scale across the tropics are absent, and within continents are either weak (Asia) or absent (Amazonia, Africa). A weak positive relationship is detectable within 1?ha plots, indicating that diversity effects in tropical forests may be scale dependent. The absence of clear diversity-carbon relationships at scales relevant to conservation planning means that carbon-centred conservation strategies will inevitably miss many high diversity ecosystems. As tropical forests can have any combination of tree diversity and carbon stocks both require explicit consideration when optimising policies to manage tropical carbon and biodiversity.
Project description:Both local- and landscape-scale processes drive succession of secondary forests in human-modified tropical landscapes. Nonetheless, until recently successional changes in composition and diversity have been predominantly studied at the patch level. Here, we used a unique dataset with 45 randomly selected sites across a mixed-use tropical landscape in central Panama to study forest succession simultaneously on local and landscape scales and across both life stages (seedling, sapling, juvenile and adult trees) and life forms (shrubs, trees, lianas, and palms). To understand the potential of these secondary forests to conserve tree species diversity, we also evaluated the diversity of species that can persist as viable metapopulations in a dynamic patchwork of short-lived successional forests, using different assumptions about the average relative size at reproductive maturity. We found a deterministic shift in the diversity and composition of the local plant communities as well as the metacommunity, driven by variation in the rate at which species recruited into and disappeared from the secondary forests across the landscape. Our results indicate that dispersal limitation and the successional niche operate simultaneously and shape successional dynamics of the metacommunity of these early secondary forests. A high diversity of plant species across the metacommunity of early secondary forests shows a potential for restoration of diverse forests through natural succession, when trees and fragments of older forests are maintained in the agricultural matrix and land is abandoned or set aside for a long period of time. On the other hand, during the first 32 years the number of species with mature-sized individuals was a relatively small and strongly biased sub-sample of the total species pool. This implies that ephemeral secondary forests have a limited role in the long-term conservation of tree species diversity in human-modified tropical landscapes.