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Temporal and spatial variability in seedling dynamics: a cross-site comparison in four lowland tropical forests

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2008

Margaret R. Metz*
Affiliation:
Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, 94720-3140, USA
Liza S. Comita
Affiliation:
Department of Plant Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-7271, USA
Yu-Yun Chen
Affiliation:
Department of Plant Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-7271, USA
Natalia Norden
Affiliation:
Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique, UMR 7154, Université Paul Sabatier, F-31062 Toulouse, France
Richard Condit
Affiliation:
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado Postal 0843-03092, Panamá, Republic of Panamá National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, 735 State St., Santa Barbara, CA, 93101, USA
Stephen P. Hubbell
Affiliation:
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado Postal 0843-03092, Panamá, Republic of Panamá
I-Fang Sun
Affiliation:
Center for Tropical Ecology and Biodiversity, Tunghai University, Taiwan, R.O.C. 40704
Nur Supardi bin Md. Noor
Affiliation:
Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Kepong, 52109 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
S. Joseph Wright
Affiliation:
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado Postal 0843-03092, Panamá, Republic of Panamá
*
1Corresponding author. Email: mmetz@berkeley.edu

Abstract:

Spatial and temporal variation in seedling dynamics was assessed using records of community-wide seedling demography collected with identical monitoring methods at four tropical lowland forests in Panama, Malaysia, Ecuador and French Guiana for periods of between 3 and 10 y. At each site, the fates of between 8617 and 391 777 seedlings were followed through annual censuses of the 370–1008 1-m2 seedling plots. Within-site spatial and inter-annual variation in density, recruitment, growth and mortality was compared with among-site variability using Bayesian hierarchical modelling to determine the generality of each site's patterns and potential for meaningful comparisons among sites. The Malaysian forest, which experiences community-wide masting, was the most variable in both seedling density and recruitment. However, density varied year-to-year at all sites (CVamong years at site = 8–43%), driven largely by high variability in recruitment rates (CV = 40–117%). At all sites, recruitment was more variable than mortality (CV = 5–64%) or growth (CV = 12–51%). Increases in mortality rates lagged 1 y behind large recruitment events. Within-site spatial variation and inter-annual differences were greater than differences among site averages in all rates, emphasizing the value of long-term comparative studies when generalizing how spatial and temporal variation drive patterns of recruitment in tropical forests.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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