Sean M McMahon

Sean M McMahon
Smithsonian Institution · Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

PhD

About

132
Publications
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5,543
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Publications

Publications (132)
Article
Full-text available
As the climate changes, warmer spring temperatures are causing earlier leaf-out1–3 and commencement of CO2 uptake1,3 in temperate deciduous forests, resulting in a tendency towards increased growing season length3 and annual CO2 uptake1,3–7. However, less is known about how spring temperatures affect tree stem growth8,9, which sequesters carbon in...
Article
Full-text available
Lianas, climbing woody plants, influence the structure and function of tropical forests. Climbing traits have evolved multiple times, including ancestral groups such as gymnosperms and pteridophytes, but the genetic basis of the liana strategy is largely unknown. Here, we use a comparative transcriptomic approach for 47 tropical plant species, incl...
Article
Full-text available
Evidence exists that tree mortality is accelerating in some regions of the tropics1,2, with profound consequences for the future of the tropical carbon sink and the global anthropogenic carbon budget left to limit peak global warming below 2 °C. However, the mechanisms that may be driving such mortality changes and whether particular species are es...
Article
Full-text available
Tree size shapes forest carbon dynamics and determines how trees interact with their environment, including a changing climate. Here, we conduct the first global analysis of among‐site differences in how aboveground biomass stocks and fluxes are distributed with tree size. We analyzed repeat tree censuses from 25 large‐scale (4–52 ha) forest plots...
Article
The growth and survival of individual trees determine the physical structure of a forest with important consequences for forest function. However, given the diversity of tree species and forest biomes, quantifying the multitude of demographic strategies within and across forests and the way that they translate into forest structure and function rem...
Article
Maples (the genus Acer) represent important and beloved forest, urban, and ornamental trees distributed throughout the Northern hemisphere. They exist in a diverse array of native ranges and distributions, across spectrums of tolerance or decline, and have varying levels of susceptibility to biotic and abiotic stress. Among Acer species, several st...
Preprint
Full-text available
As the climate changes, warmer spring temperatures are causing earlier leaf-out1–6 and commencement of net carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration2,4 in temperate deciduous forests, resulting in a tendency towards increased growing season length1,4,5,7–9 and annual CO2 uptake2,4,10–14. However, less is known about how spring temperatures affect tree ste...
Article
Full-text available
A better understanding of how climate affects growth in tree species is essential for improved predictions of forest dynamics under climate change. Long-term climate averages (mean climate) drives spatial variations in species’ baseline growth rates, whereas deviations from these averages over time (anomalies) can create growth variation around the...
Article
Allometric equations for calculation of tree aboveground biomass (AGB) form the basis for estimates of forest carbon storage and exchange with the atmosphere. While standard models exist to calculate forest biomass across the tropics, we lack a standardized tool for computing AGB across boreal and temperate regions that comprise the global extratro...
Article
Full-text available
Tree rings provide an invaluable long‐term record for understanding how climate and other drivers shape tree growth and forest productivity. However, conventional tree‐ring analysis methods were not designed to simultaneously test effects of climate, tree size, and other drivers on individual growth. This has limited the potential to test ecologica...
Article
The relative importance of tree mortality risk factors remains unknown, especially in diverse tropical forests where species may vary widely in their responses to particular conditions. We present a new framework for quantifying the importance of mortality risk factors and apply it to compare 19 risks on 31,203 trees (1,977 species) in 14 one‐year...
Preprint
Full-text available
Lianas, climbing woody plants, influence the structure and function of tropical forests. Climbing traits have evolved multiple times, including ancestral groups such as gymnosperms and pteridophytes, but the genetic basis of the liana strategy is largely unknown. Here, we use a comparative transcriptomic approach for 47 tropical plant species, incl...
Article
Full-text available
Plant transpiration links physiological responses of vegetation to water supply and demand with hydrological, energy, and carbon budgets at the land–atmosphere interface. However, despite being the main land evaporative flux at the global scale, transpiration and its response to environmental drivers are currently not well constrained by observatio...
Preprint
Full-text available
A better understanding of how climate affects growth in tree species is essential for improved predictions of forest dynamics under climate change. Long-term climate averages (mean climate) and short-term deviations from these averages (anomalies) both influence tree growth, but the rarity of long-term data integrating climatic gradients with tree...
Article
Full-text available
Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and ectomycorrhizal (EcM) associations are critical for host-tree performance. However, how mycorrhizal associations correlate with the latitudinal tree beta-diversity remains untested. Using a global dataset of 45 forest plots representing 2,804,270 trees across 3840 species, we test how AM and EcM trees contribute to t...
Article
Full-text available
Deep‐water access is arguably the most effective, but under‐studied mechanism that plants employ to survive during drought. Vulnerability to embolism and hydraulic safety margins can predict mortality risk at given levels of dehydration, but deep‐water access may delay plant dehydration. Here, we tested the role of deep‐water access in enabling sur...
Article
Full-text available
Plant diversity varies immensely over large-scale gradients in temperature, precipitation, and seasonality at global and regional scales. This relationship may be driven in part by climatic variation in the relative importance of abiotic and biotic interactions to the diversity and composition of plant communities. In particular, biotic interaction...
Article
Experimental and observational studies on seedling dynamics posit mechanisms that can influence forest diversity, structure, and function. However, high mortality and slow growth of seedlings make it difficult to evaluate the importance of this life‐history filter to total tree life history. Quantifying the duration and transition of the seedling p...
Article
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Resource allocation within trees is a zero-sum game. Unavoidable trade-offs dictate that allocation to growth-promoting functions curtails other functions, generating a gradient of investment in growth versus survival along which tree species align, known as the interspecific growth–mortality trade-off. This paradigm is widely accepted but not well...
Article
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The effects of climate change on tropical forests will depend on how diverse tropical tree species respond to drought. Current distributions of evergreen and deciduous tree species across local and regional moisture gradients reflect their ability to tolerate drought stress, and might be explained by functional traits. ●We measured leaf water poten...
Article
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ForestGEO is a network of scientists and long-term forest dynamics plots (FDPs) spanning the Earth's major forest types. ForestGEO's mission is to advance understanding of the diversity and dynamics of forests and to strengthen global capacity for forest science research. ForestGEO is unique among forest plot networks in its large-scale plot dimens...
Article
Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration ([CO2]) is increasing, which increases leaf‐scale photosynthesis and intrinsic water‐use efficiency. These direct responses have the potential to increase plant growth, vegetation biomass, and soil organic matter; transferring carbon from the atmosphere into terrestrial ecosystems (a carbon sink). A substant...
Article
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Among the local processes that determine species diversity in ecological communities, fluctuation‐dependent mechanisms that are mediated by temporal variability in the abundances of species populations have received significant attention. Higher temporal variability in the abundances of species populations can increase the strength of temporal nich...
Article
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Knowing where species occur is fundamental to many ecological and environmental applications. Species distribution models (SDMs) are typically based on correlations between species occurrence data and environmental predictors, with ecological processes captured only implicitly. However, there is a growing interest in approaches that explicitly mode...
Article
Plant phenology – the timing of cyclic or recurrent biological events in plants – offers insight into the ecology, evolution, and seasonality of plant‐mediated ecosystem processes. Traditionally studied phenologies are readily apparent, such as flowering events, germination timing, and season‐initiating budbreak. However, a broad range of phenologi...
Article
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Symbiotic nitrogen (N)‐fixing trees can provide large quantities of new N to ecosystems, but only if they are sufficiently abundant. The overall abundance and latitudinal abundance distributions of N‐fixing trees are well characterised in the Americas, but less well outside the Americas. Here, we characterised the abundance of N‐fixing trees in a n...
Article
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Seasonal dynamics in the vertical distribution of leaf area index (LAI) may impact the seasonality of forest productivity in Amazonian forests. However, until recently fine‐scale observations critical to revealing ecological mechanisms underlying these changes have been lacking. To investigate fine‐scale variation in leaf area with seasonality and...
Article
Tree mortality rates determine forest health, community dynamics, and terrestrial carbon stocks. Climate change is predicted to increase global forest mortality, and some studies have observed recent changes in mortality rates. Assessing shifts in mortality and identifying their causes is challenged by the low mortality rates of trees and the limit...
Article
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Plant enemies that attack chemically similar host species are thought to mediate competitive exclusion of chemically similar plants and select for chemical divergence among closely related species. This hypothesis predicts that plant defenses should diverge rapidly, minimizing phylogenetic signal. To evaluate this prediction, we quantified metabolo...
Article
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Survival rates of large trees determine forest biomass dynamics. Survival rates of small trees have been linked to mechanisms that maintain biodiversity across tropical forests. How species survival rates change with size offers insight into the links between biodiversity and ecosystem function across tropical forests. We tested patterns of size-de...
Article
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The prediction of vegetation responses to climate requires a knowledge of how climate‐sensitive plant traits mediate not only the responses of individual plants, but also shifts in the species and functional compositions of whole communities. The emission of isoprene gas – a trait shared by one‐third of tree species – is known to protect leaf bioch...
Article
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Hülsmann and Hartig suggest that ecological mechanisms other than specialized natural enemies or intraspecific competition contribute to our estimates of conspecific negative density dependence (CNDD). To address their concern, we show that our results are not the result of a methodological artifact and present a null-model analysis that demonstrat...
Article
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Chisholm and Fung claim that our method of estimating conspecific negative density dependence (CNDD) in recruitment is systematically biased, and present an alternative method that shows no latitudinal pattern in CNDD. We demonstrate that their approach produces strongly biased estimates of CNDD, explaining why they do not detect a latitudinal patt...
Article
Aim To examine the contribution of large‐diameter trees to biomass, stand structure, and species richness across forest biomes. Location Global. Time period Early 21st century. Major taxa studied Woody plants. Methods We examined the contribution of large trees to forest density, richness and biomass using a global network of 48 large (from 2 t...
Article
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As population-level patterns of interest in forests emerge from individual vital rates, modelling forest dynamics requires making the link between the scales at which data are collected (individual stems) and the scales at which questions are asked (e.g. populations and communities). Structured population models (e.g. integral projection models (IP...
Preprint
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Interspecific variation in the secondary metabolites of plants constrains host specificity of insect herbivores and microbial pathogens. The intensity and specificity of these plant-pest interactions is widely believed to increase towards the Equator, leading to the prediction that secondary metabolites should differ more among co-occurring plant s...
Article
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Tree mortality rates appear to be increasing in moist tropical forests (MTFs) with significant carbon cycle consequences. Here, we review the state of knowledge regarding MTF tree mortality, create a conceptual framework with testable hypotheses regarding the drivers, mechanisms and interactions that may underlie increasing MTF mortality rates, and...
Article
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ISI Document Delivery No.: GJ5TETimes Cited: 0Cited Reference Count: 60Chitra-Tarak, Rutuja Ruiz, Laurent Dattaraja, Handanakere S. Kumar, M. S. Mohan Riotte, Jean Suresh, Hebbalalu S. McMahon, Sean M. Sukumar, RamanMinistry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India; CSIR, India; French Institute of Research for Development (IRD), C...
Article
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Theory predicts that higher biodiversity in the tropics is maintained by specialized interactions among plants and their natural enemies that result in conspecific negative density dependence (CNDD). By using more than 3000 species and nearly 2.4 million trees across 24 forest plots worldwide, we show that global patterns in tree species diversity...
Article
Stem diameter is one of the most commonly measured attributes of trees, forming the foundation of forest censuses and monitoring. Changes in tree stem circumference include both irreversible woody stem growth and reversible circumference changes related to water status, yet these fine-scale dynamics are rarely leveraged to understand forest ecophys...
Article
Full-text available
Conceptual models that describe temperate forest dynamics differ substantially between Europe and America. In Europe, the concept of the forest cycle describes a sequentially shifting fine-scale mosaic of patches in different phases of forest development. In North America, the descriptive concept is largely based on severe coarse-scale disturbances...
Article
Fagus sylvatica (European beech) populations in Central Europe are currently expanding their dominance in many forest types. In this study we focused on the spatio-temporal dynamics of beech recruitment as a mechanism for successful expansion. Specifically we investigated: (1) the developmental trend of the tree community composition and spatial pa...
Article
Understanding and forecasting species' geographic distributions in the face of global change is a central priority in biodiversity science. The existing view is that one must choose between correlative models for many species versus process-based models for few species. We suggest that opportunities exist to produce process-based range models for m...
Data
Supplementary Material to the Paper: Kral_et_al_2016_Fine-scale patch mosaics in American forests
Conference Paper
Background: Changes in species diversity across temperate and tropical ecosystems are among the most striking patterns of global biodiversity. Yet the processes that underlie these patterns remain debated. One leading hypothesis is that geographic variation in niche-assembly mechanisms results in higher diversity in the tropics. Theory predicts tha...
Article
Full-text available
Population ecology, the discipline that studies the dynamics of species’ populations and how they interact with the environment, has been one of the most prolific fields of ecology and evolution. Demographic research is central to quantifying population-level processes and their underlying mechanisms and has provided critical contributions to a div...
Article
Large-scale mortality events in forests are increasing in frequency and intensity and can lead to both intermediate- and long-term changes in these systems. Specialist pests and pathogens are unique disturbances, as they commonly target individual species that are relatively prevalent in the community. Understanding the consequences of pathogen-cau...
Presentation
Background/Question/Methods: A key goal in ecology is to disentangle how multiple processes at different scales influence patterns of biodiversity. Variation in biodiversity can arise from local-scale niche-based processes such as competition and environmental filtering as well as from regional-scale processes such as dispersal and speciation. Howe...
Article
Full-text available
Temporal fluctuations in vital rates such as survival, growth or reproduction alter long-term population dynamics and can change the dynamics from invasion and population persistence to extinction. Projections of population dynamics made in the absence of such fluctuations may consequently be misleading. However, data for estimation of yearly fluct...
Article
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Many morphological, physiological, and ecological traits of trees scale with diameter, shaping the structure and function of forest ecosystems. Understanding the mechanistic basis for such scaling relationships is key to understanding forests globally and their role in Earth's changing climate system.Here, we evaluate theoretical predictions for th...