Stuart J. Davies's research while affiliated with Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and other places

Publications (173)

Article
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Abstract Community phylogenetic analysis is an effective approach to understanding the process of community formation. The phylogenetic tree of the species pool is reconstructed in the first step, and the phylogenetic tree obtained in the second step is used to analyze phylogenetic diversity. Sythetic trees have often been used in the construction...
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Forests contribute to climate change mitigation through carbon storage and uptake, but the extent to which this carbon pool varies in space and time is still poorly known. Several Earth Observation missions have been specifically designed to address this issue, e.g. NASA's GEDI, NASA-ISRO's NISAR and ESA's BIOMASS. Yet, all these missions' products...
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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...
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Crown damage can account for over 23% of canopy biomass turnover in tropical forests and is a strong predictor of tree mortality, yet it is not typically represented in vegetation models. We incorporate crown damage into the Functionally Assembled Terrestrial Ecosystem Simulator (FATES), to evaluate how lags between damage and tree recovery or deat...
Article
Data on tropical forests are in high demand. But ground forest measurements are hard to sustain and the people who make them are extremely disadvantaged compared to those who use them. We propose a new approach to forest data that focuses on the needs of data originators, and ensures users and funders contribute properly.
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1. Organisms of all species must balance their allocation to growth, survival and recruitment. Among tree species, evolution has resulted in different life‐history strategies for partitioning resources to these key demographic processes. Life‐history strategies in tropical forests have often been shown to align along a trade‐off between fast growth...
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Tree volume equations including branches are scarce in forestry literature, especially in diverse tropical forests, where the variability in tree shapes hampers the development of overall volume descriptions. We present species-composite cumulative volume profile models that describe the volume contained up to a given height in the trunks and crown...
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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...
Preprint
All species must balance their allocation to growth, survival and recruitment. Among trees, evolution has resulted in different strategies of partitioning resources to these key demographic processes, i.e. demographic trade-offs. It is unclear whether the same demographic trade-offs structure tropical forests worldwide. Here, we used data from 13 l...
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...
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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...
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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
All species must balance their allocation to growth, survival and recruitment. Among trees, evolution has resulted in different strategies of partitioning resources to these key demographic processes, i.e. demographic trade-offs. It is unclear whether the same demographic trade-offs structure tropical forests worldwide. Here, we used data from 13 l...
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...
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Humid tropical forests play a dominant role in the functioning of Earth but are under increasing threat from changes in land use and climate. How forest vulnerability varies across space and time and what level of stress forests can tolerate before facing a tipping point are poorly understood. Here, we develop a tropical forest vulnerability index...
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Ecology cannot yet fully explain why so many tree species coexist in natural communities such as tropical forests. A major difficulty is linking individual-level processes to community dynamics. We propose a combination of tree spatial data, spatial statistics and dynamical theory to reveal the relationship between spatial patterns and population-l...
Article
In the tropics, antagonistic seed predation networks may have different properties than mutualistic pollination and seed dispersal networks, but the former have been considerably less studied. We tested whether the structure of antagonistic tripartite networks composed of host plants, insects developing within seeds and fruits, and their insect par...
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en Accurately projecting global carbon dynamics requires understanding controls over temporal and spatial tropical forest biomass variation. Changes in tropical forest aboveground biomass per area are most commonly estimated using repeat forest plot censuses, but errors in these estimates can be relatively large, limiting our ability to detect real...
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en Intensified droughts are affecting tropical forests across the globe. However, the underlying mechanisms of tree drought response and mortality are poorly understood. Hydraulic traits and especially hydraulic safety margins (HSMs), that is, the extent to which plants buffer themselves from thresholds of water stress, provide insights into specie...
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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...
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Tropical forests are the most diverse and productive ecosystems on Earth. While better understanding of these forests is critical for our collective future, until quite recently efforts to measure and monitor them have been largely disconnected. Networking is essential to discover the answers to questions that transcend borders and the horizons of...
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When Darwin visited the Galapagos archipelago, he observed that, in spite of the islands’ physical similarity, members of species that had dispersed to them recently were beginning to diverge from each other. He postulated that these divergences must have resulted primarily from interactions with sets of other species that had also diverged across...
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Large vertebrates are rarely considered important drivers of conspecific negative density-dependent mortality (CNDD) in plants because they are generalist consumers. However, disturbances like trampling and nesting also cause plant mortality, and their impact on plant diversity depends on the spatial overlap between wildlife habitat preferences and...
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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...
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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...
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Tree mortality drives changes in forest structure and dynamics, community composition, and carbon and nutrient cycles. Since tropical forests store a large fraction of terrestrial biomass and tree diversity, improved understanding of changing tree mortality and biomass loss rates is critical. Tropical tree mortality rates have been challenging to e...
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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...
Preprint
Large vertebrates are rarely considered important drivers of conspecific negative density-dependent mortality (CNDD) in plants because they are generalist consumers. However, disturbances like trampling also cause plant mortality, and their impact on plant diversity depends on the spatial overlap between wildlife habitat preferences and plant speci...
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1. Despite its broad implications for community structure and dynamics we lack a clear understanding of how forest productivity is partitioned among tree species. As leaf mass per unit of standing biomass declines with tree size, species achieving larger stature should show lower relative productivity as compared to smaller stature species. However...
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Legumes provide an essential service to ecosystems by capturing nitrogen from the atmosphere and delivering it to the soil, where it may then be available to other plants. However, this facilitation by legumes has not been widely studied in global tropical forests. Demographic data from 11 large forest plots (16–60 ha) ranging from 5.25° S to 29.25...
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Plant functional traits determine vegetation responses to environmental variation, but variation in trait values is large, even within a single site. Likewise, uncertainty in how these traits map to Earth system feedbacks is large. We use a vegetation demographic model (VDM), the Functionally Assembled Terrestrial Ecosystem Simulator (FATES), to ex...
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The sensitivity of tropical forest carbon to climate is a key uncertainty in predicting global climate change. Although short-term drying and warming are known to affect forests, it is unknown if such effects translate into long-term responses. Here, we analyze 590 permanent plots measured across the tropics to derive the equilibrium climate contro...
Article
‐Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) produce contrasting plant‐soil feedbacks, but how these feedbacks are constrained by lithology is poorly understood. ‐We investigated the hypothesis that lithological drivers of soil fertility filter plant resource economic strategies in ways that influence the relative fitness of...
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Aims To test the relative importance of topography versus soil chemistry in defining tree species-habitat associations in a terra firme Amazonian forest. Method We evaluated habitat associations for 612 woody species using alternative habitat maps generated from topography and soil chemistry in the 25-ha Amacayacu Forest Dynamics Plot, Colombian A...
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While work in temperate forests suggests that there are consistent differences in plant–soil feedback (PSF) between plants with arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal associations, it is unclear whether these differences exist in tropical rainforests. We tested the effects of mycorrhizal type, phylogenetic relationships to overstory species, and soil ferti...
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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...
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The diverse large mammal communities found in Asian dry forests and savannas should segregate based on their diet selection. We examined the diet composition of sympatric ungulate species using metabarcoding to determine whether their diet was segregated and whether obvious attributes (i.e., body size, phylogeny, ecology) explained the structure. W...
Preprint
Full-text available
Plant functional traits determine vegetation responses to environmental variation, but variation in trait values is large, even within a single site. Likewise, uncertainty in how these traits map to Earth system feedbacks is large. We use a vegetation demographic model (VDM), the Functionally Assembled Terrestrial Ecosystem Simulator (FATES), to ex...
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Forest biomass is an essential indicator for monitoring the Earth’s ecosystems and climate. It is a critical input to greenhouse gas accounting, estimation of carbon losses and forest degradation, assessment of renewable energy potential, and for developing climate change mitigation policies such as REDD+, among others. Wall-to-wall mapping of abov...
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Tropical forest responses to climate and atmospheric change are critical to the future of the global carbon budget. Recent studies have reported increases in estimated above-ground biomass (EAGB) stocks, productivity, and mortality in old-growth tropical forests. These increases could reflect a shift in forest functioning due to global change and/o...
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Several remote sensing missions will soon produce detailed carbon maps over all terrestrial ecosystems. These missions are dependent on accurate and representative in situ datasets for the training of their algorithms and product validation. However, long-term ground-based forest-monitoring systems are limited, especially in the tropics, and to be...
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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...
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In 2000, we established a 24-ha plot in Peninsular Thailand to investigate how forest composition, structure and dynamics vary with spatial heterogeneity in resource availability. Detailed soil and topographic surveys were used to describe four edaphic habitats in the plot. Disturbance history was inferred from historical records and floristic anal...
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1.Hunting and land use change modify herbivore abundances and cause cascading effects in natural ecosystems. The outcomes for vegetation depend on changes to specific plant‐animal interactions, such as seed dispersal or predation, or physical disturbances. 2.We experimentally manipulated terrestrial wildlife populations in a primary lowland forest...
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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...
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We propose a new classification of rain forest plants into eight fruit syndromes, based on fruit morphology and other traits relevant to fruit-feeding insects. This classification is compared with other systems based on plant morphology or traits relevant to vertebrate fruit dispersers. Our syndromes are based on fruits sampled from 1,192 plant spe...
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Soil nutrients influence the distribution of tree species in lowland tropical forests, but their effect on productivity, especially at local scales, remains unclear. We used tree census, canopy occupancy, and soil data from the Barro Colorado Island (BCI; Panama) 50‐ha forest dynamics plot to investigate the influence of soil nutrients and potentia...
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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...
Preprint
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While work in temperate forests suggests that there may be consistent differences in plant-soil feedback (PSF) between plants with arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal associations, it is unclear whether this is compatible with the high diversity of tropical rainforests. To examine this, we tested the effect of mycorrhizal type, phylogenetic distance, an...
Article
What causes individual tree death in tropical forests remains a major gap in our understanding of the biology of tropical trees and leads to significant uncertainty in predicting global carbon cycle dynamics. We measured individual characteristics (diameter at breast height, wood density, growth rate, crown illumination and crown form) and environm...
Article
Tropical forests are a key component of the global carbon cycle. Yet, there are still high uncertainties in forest carbon stock and flux estimates, notably because of their spatial and temporal variability across the tropics. Several upcoming spaceborne missions have been designed to address this gap. High-quality ground data are essential for accu...
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As cyclonic wind storms (hurricanes and typhoons) increase in frequency and intensity with climate change, it is important to understand their effects on the populations and communities of tropical trees they impact. Using tree demographic data from four large, tropical forest dynamics plots that differ in cyclonic storm frequency, we compare tree...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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Aim Insects feeding on seeds and fruits represent interesting study systems, potentially able to lower the fitness of their host plants. In addition to true seed eaters, a suite of insects feed on the fleshy parts of fruits. We examined the likelihood of community convergence in whole insect assemblages attacking seeds/fruits in three tropical rain...
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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...
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The original version of this Article contained an error in the third sentence of the abstract and incorrectly read "Here, using long-term plot monitoring records of up to half a century, we find that intact forests in Borneo gained 0.43 Mg C ha-1 year-1 (95% CI 0.14-0.72, mean period 1988-2010) above-ground live biomass", rather than the correct "H...
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Less than half of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions remain in the atmosphere. While carbon balance models imply large carbon uptake in tropical forests, direct on-the-ground observations are still lacking in Southeast Asia. Here, using long-term plot monitoring records of up to half a century, we find that intact forests in Borneo gained 0.43...
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Multiple anthropogenic drivers affect every natural community, and there is broad interest in using functional traits to understand and predict the consequences for future biodiversity. There is, however, no consensus regarding the choice of analytical methods. We contrast species- and community-level analyses of change in the functional compositio...
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Extreme climatic events affecting the Amazon region are expected to become more frequent under ongoing climate change. In this study, we assessed the responses to the 2010 drought of over 14,000 trees ≥ 10 cm dbh in a 25 ha lowland forest plot in the Colombian Amazon and how these responses varied among topographically defined habitats, with tree s...
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Maintaining tree diversity Negative interaction among plant species is known as conspecific negative density dependence (CNDD). This ecological pattern is thought to maintain higher species diversity in the tropics. LaManna et al. tested this hypothesis by comparing how tree species diversity changes with the intensity of local biotic interactions...
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We analyze forest structure, diversity, and dominance in three large-scale Amazonian forest dynamics plots located in Northwestern (Yasuni and Amacayacu) and central (Manaus) Amazonia, to evaluate their consistency with prevailing wisdom regarding geographic variation and the shape of species abundance distributions, and to assess the robustness of...
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Closer collaboration among ecologists, systematists, and evolutionary biologists working in tropical forests, centred on studies within long-term permanent plots, would be highly beneficial for their respective fields. With a key unifying theme of the importance of vouchered collection and precise identification of species, especially rare ones, we...