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Tree Community Phenodynamics and Its Relationship with Climatic Conditions in a Lowland Tropical Rainforest

Pires, Jakeline P. A., Marino, Nicholas A. C., Silva, Ary G., Rodrigues, Pablo J. F. P., Freitas, Leandro
Forests 2018 v.9 no.3
canopy, climate change, climatic factors, community structure, ecological footprint, flowering, fruiting, fruits, heat sums, leaf abscission, leaves, models, phenology, plant growth, ripening, risk, temporal variation, trees, tropical rain forests, Brazil
The timing, duration, magnitude and synchronicity of plant life cycles are fundamental aspects of community dynamics and ecosystem functioning, and information on phenodynamics is essential for accurate vegetation classification and modeling. Here, we recorded the vegetative and reproductive phenodynamics of 479 individuals belonging to 182 tree species monthly over two years in a lowland Atlantic Forest in southeastern Brazil, and assessed the relationship between local climatic conditions and the occurrence and intensity of phenophases. We found a constant but low intensity of occurrence of both leaf fall and leaf flush with respect to canopy cover, resulting in an evergreen cover throughout the year. The timing of the reproductive phenophases was irregular between the two years of observation, and their amplitude was low. In addition, flowering and fruiting phenograms of activity, intensity and intensity corrected by the basal area did not overlap. These results suggest that a combination of phenological records and community-structure parameters allows for the obtainment of more accurate estimates of resource availability over time. We found that differences in growing degree-days (GDD), photoperiod and precipitation over time were related to temporal variation in leaf fall, leaf flush and flowering, with a large consistency in responses across tree species in this lowland Atlantic Forest. Moreover, there was only a weak relationship between climatic conditions and the dynamics of fruit formation and ripening, which were more strongly related to flowering phenodynamics, which is suggestive of indirect effects of climatic conditions on fruiting. Finally, the association we found between the number of days with precipitation and leaf fall dynamics agrees with the view that the greater potential for extreme events may impair plant growth in tropical forests. This reinforces the growing concerns regarding the risk of ecological collapse of tropical forests due to fragmentation and global climate change.