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Title: Functional analysis of secondary tropical dry forests in a region of the Colombia, Caribbean
Author: Castellanos Castro, C.
Awarding Body: Bournemouth University
Current Institution: Bournemouth University
Date of Award: 2013
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Secondary tropical forests are increasingly recognized for their role conserving biodiversity in agricultural landscapes and this role is especially important for seasonally dry tropical forests (SDTF), one of the most threatened tropical forested ecosystems. The conservation value of secondary forest is increased by its capacity to maintain ecosystem properties and provide services to humans; which has been hypothesized to have positive links to the species and functional diversity of ecosystems. However very little information is available on the occurrence of this relationship in secondary forests. This dissertation makes an important contribution to the ecological knowledge of secondary SDTF and describes changes in plant species and functional diversity by using a stratified design considering different successional stages along an environmental gradient in a region of the Caribbean coast of Colombia and a multi-trait approach to study functional diversity at three scales: species, communities and landscape. The analysis of the variation in functional traits of SDTF trees at the species level allowed me to support the hypothesis of coordination between leaves and stem traits. Three dimensions of correlated variation were identified: the first related to leaf and stem economy, the second to leaf thickness and organization and the third to the trade-offs between leaf size, stem density and bark thickness. Secondary forests showed high species turnover during succession and increasing diversity from early to late forests. Species composition similarity was higher among late successional forest than early and intermediate stage forests, showing that environmental characteristics are influencing successional trajectories. Frequency distributions of species in the three successional stages showed evidence of functional trait similarity among species and underlined the importance of changes in species abundances determining functional composition during succession. A shift in abundance from individuals with traits that favour survival after disturbance to individuals with denser stems and a more conservative resource use profile was observed from early to late stages of succession. Functional composition was also strongly influenced by environmental variables, especially leaf traits, and a shift of traits from acquisitive to conservative type species was observed with increasing nutrient content and flooding, proxies of water availability. Assessment of ecosystem services was conducted using two independent approaches: semistructured interviews and field data. A high richness of useful woody plants was recorded and the provision of services was related to a high variability in functional traits among species. The provision of the ecosystem services determined by the presence and abundance of useful species showed significant differences between stages. The relationships observed between ecosystem sevices and functional and species diversity indices were not consistent. In contrast species richess showed significant negative relationships at the plot level with most of the ecosystem services assessed, showing a trade-off among the conservation of species richness and the maintenance of service provision. Overall, this research provides novel insights into the dynamic relationships between biodiversity, ecosystem function and ecosystem services in this globally important, but under-researched forest type.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Biology and Botany