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Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia

Veenendaal E.M.,Wageningen University | Torello-Raventos M.,James Cook University | Feldpausch T.R.,University of Leeds | Domingues T.F.,University of Edinburgh | And 49 more authors.
Biogeosciences | Year: 2015

Through interpretations of remote-sensing data and/or theoretical propositions, the idea that forest and savanna represent "alternative stable states" is gaining increasing acceptance. Filling an observational gap, we present detailed stratified floristic and structural analyses for forest and savanna stands located mostly within zones of transition (where both vegetation types occur in close proximity) in Africa, South America and Australia. Woody plant leaf area index variation was related to tree canopy cover in a similar way for both savanna and forest with substantial overlap between the two vegetation types. As total woody plant canopy cover increased, so did the relative contribution of middle and lower strata of woody vegetation. Herbaceous layer cover declined as woody cover increased. This pattern of understorey grasses and herbs progressively replaced by shrubs as the canopy closes over was found for both savanna and forests and on all continents. Thus, once subordinate woody canopy layers are taken into account, a less marked transition in woody plant cover across the savanna-forest-species discontinuum is observed compared to that inferred when trees of a basal diameter > 0.1 m are considered in isolation. This is especially the case for shrub-dominated savannas and in taller savannas approaching canopy closure. An increased contribution of forest species to the total subordinate cover is also observed as savanna stand canopy closure occurs. Despite similarities in canopy-cover characteristics, woody vegetation in Africa and Australia attained greater heights and stored a greater amount of above-ground biomass than in South America. Up to three times as much above-ground biomass is stored in forests compared to savannas under equivalent climatic conditions. Savanna-forest transition zones were also found to typically occur at higher precipitation regimes for South America than for Africa. Nevertheless, consistent across all three continents coexistence was found to be confined to a well-defined edaphic-climate envelope with soil and climate the key determinants of the relative location of forest and savanna stands. Moreover, when considered in conjunction with the appropriate water availability metrics, it emerges that soil exchangeable cations exert considerable control on woody canopy-cover extent as measured in our pan-continental (forest + savanna) data set. Taken together these observations do not lend support to the notion of alternate stable states mediated through fire feedbacks as the prime force shaping the distribution of the two dominant vegetation types of the tropical lands. © Author(s) 2015. Source


Lloyd J.,Imperial College London | Lloyd J.,James Cook University | Domingues T.F.,University of Sao Paulo | Schrodt F.,Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry | And 18 more authors.
Biogeosciences | Year: 2015

Sampling along a precipitation gradient in tropical South America extending from ca. 0.8 to 2.0 m ag-1, savanna soils had consistently lower exchangeable cation concentrations and higher C/N ratios than nearby forest plots. These soil differences were also reflected in canopy averaged leaf traits with savanna trees typically having higher leaf mass per unit area but lower mass-based nitrogen (Nm) and potassium (Km). Both Nm and Km also increased with declining mean annual precipitation (PA), but most area-based leaf traits such as leaf photosynthetic capacity showed no systematic variation with PA or vegetation type. Despite this invariance, when taken in conjunction with other measures such as mean canopy height, area-based soil exchangeable potassium content, [K]sa , proved to be an excellent predictor of several photosynthetic properties (including 13C isotope discrimination). Moreover, when considered in a multivariate context with PA and soil plant available water storage capacity (θP) as covariates, [K]sa also proved to be an excellent predictor of stand-level canopy area, providing drastically improved fits as compared to models considering just PA and/or θP. Neither calcium, nor magnesium, nor soil pH could substitute for potassium when tested as alternative model predictors (ΔAIC > 10). Nor for any model could simple soil texture metrics such as sand or clay content substitute for either [K]sa or θP. Taken in conjunction with recent work in Africa and the forests of the Amazon Basin, this suggests-in combination with some newly conceptualised interacting effects of PA and θP also presented here-a critical role for potassium as a modulator of tropical vegetation structure and function. © 2015 Author(s). Source


Quesada C.A.,University of Leeds | Quesada C.A.,National Institute of Amazonian Research | Phillips O.L.,University of Leeds | Schwarz M.,Ecoservices | And 46 more authors.
Biogeosciences | Year: 2012

Forest structure and dynamics vary across the Amazon Basin in an east-west gradient coincident with variations in soil fertility and geology. This has resulted in the hypothesis that soil fertility may play an important role in explaining Basin-wide variations in forest biomass, growth and stem turnover rates. Soil samples were collected in a total of 59 different forest plots across the Amazon Basin and analysed for exchangeable cations, carbon, nitrogen and pH, with several phosphorus fractions of likely different plant availability also quantified. Physical properties were additionally examined and an index of soil physical quality developed. Bivariate relationships of soil and climatic properties with above-ground wood productivity, stand-level tree turnover rates, above-ground wood biomass and wood density were first examined with multivariate regression models then applied. Both forms of analysis were undertaken with and without considerations regarding the underlying spatial structure of the dataset. Despite the presence of autocorrelated spatial structures complicating many analyses, forest structure and dynamics were found to be strongly and quantitatively related to edaphic as well as climatic conditions. Basin-wide differences in stand-level turnover rates are mostly influenced by soil physical properties with variations in rates of coarse wood production mostly related to soil phosphorus status. Total soil P was a better predictor of wood production rates than any of the fractionated organic- or inorganic-P pools. This suggests that it is not only the immediately available P forms, but probably the entire soil phosphorus pool that is interacting with forest growth on longer timescales. A role for soil potassium in modulating Amazon forest dynamics through its effects on stand-level wood density was also detected. Taking this into account, otherwise enigmatic variations in stand-level biomass across the Basin were then accounted for through the interacting effects of soil physical and chemical properties with climate. A hypothesis of self-maintaining forest dynamic feedback mechanisms initiated by edaphic conditions is proposed. It is further suggested that this is a major factor determining endogenous disturbance levels, species composition, and forest productivity across the Amazon Basin. © 2012 Author(s). CC Attribution 3.0 License. Source


Torello-Raventos M.,James Cook University | Torello-Raventos M.,University of Leeds | Feldpausch T.R.,University of Leeds | Veenendaal E.,Wageningen University | And 46 more authors.
Plant Ecology and Diversity | Year: 2013

Background: There is no generally agreed classification scheme for the many different vegetation formation types occurring in the tropics. This hinders cross-continental comparisons and causes confusion as words such as 'forest' and 'savanna' have different meanings to different people. Tropical vegetation formations are therefore usually imprecisely and/or ambiguously defined in modelling, remote sensing and ecological studies.Aims: To integrate observed variations in tropical vegetation structure and floristic composition into a single classification scheme.Methods: Using structural and floristic measurements made on three continents, discrete tropical vegetation groupings were defined on the basis of overstorey and understorey structure and species compositions by using clustering techniques.Results: Twelve structural groupings were identified based on height and canopy cover of the dominant upper stratum and the extent of lower-strata woody shrub cover and grass cover. Structural classifications did not, however, always agree with those based on floristic composition, especially for plots located in the forest-savanna transition zone. This duality is incorporated into a new tropical vegetation classification scheme.Conclusions: Both floristics and stand structure are important criteria for the meaningful delineation of tropical vegetation formations, especially in the forest/savanna transition zone. A new tropical vegetation classification scheme incorporating this information has been developed. © 2013 Copyright 2013 Botanical Society of Scotland and Taylor & Francis. Source

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