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Soil controls biomass and dynamics of an Amazonian forest through the shifting of species and traits

Toledo, José Julio, Castilho, Carolina V., Magnusson, William E., Nascimento, Henrique E. M.
Revista brasileira de botânica 2017 v.40 no.2 pp. 451-461
biomass, cation exchange capacity, clay fraction, climate, mortality, pioneer species, sandy soils, species diversity, tree growth, tree mortality, trees, tropical forests, wood, wood density, Amazonia, Brazil
The effects of soil on tree species composition and trait distributions in tropical forest, and how these interactions affect tree biomass and dynamics, are poorly understood because variation in soil is confounded with variation in climate over large areas. We excluded confounding due to climate by studying variation among 72 1-ha plots within 64 km², and minimized within-plot variation in soil and stand properties by using long narrow plots oriented along altitudinal contours in Reserva Ducke, Central Amazonia, Brazil. Soil variation caused shifts in tree species composition, which determined stand-level wood density. Soil clay content, cation exchange capacity, plot mean wood density and one-dimensional ordination of tree species composition explained about 40% of variation in tree biomass, 24% of variation in tree mortality and 18% of variation in coarse wood production. As pioneer species were not abundant, lower biomass and higher mortality on sandy soils is a consequence of dominance of species with low to medium wood density adapted to waterlogged and nutrient-poor sandy soils. Therefore, mesoscale variation in biomass and dynamics is caused by co-occurrence of species with similar traits in different parts of the edaphic gradient. Identification of mechanisms controlling tree biomass and dynamics in Amazonian forest will require better understanding of tree–soil physiologic interactions.