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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • 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

Organisational units


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


    Research areas

  • climate trends, forest composition, moisture affiliation, moisture seasonality, tropical forest, LONG-TERM PLOTS, TROPICAL FORESTS, CARBON-DIOXIDE, RAIN-FOREST, DROUGHT SENSITIVITY, SPATIAL-PATTERNS, ELEVATED CO2, TREE, IMPACTS, BIOMASS

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