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Title: Functional and floristic dynamics of Amazonian forests
Author: Esquivel Muelbert, Adriane
ISNI:       0000 0004 5993 158X
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2016
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Intact Amazonian forests are often considered to be in a steady-state, where gains in growth and recruitment are offset by losses in mortality and where net carbon accumulation is close to zero. However, permanent plot data have shown that this ecosystem removes ca. 0.4 Pg of carbon per year from the atmosphere, approximately 5% of annual anthropogenic emissions. This thesis tests several competing hypothesized drivers of detected shifts in the structure and dynamics of intact forest, by assessing changes in functional and floristic composition over the last 30 years in over 100 long-term tree monitoring plots distributed across the Amazon. I first show that the majority of species are restricted to wetter conditions, indicating that stronger and more frequent droughts could threaten many species (Chapter 3). I generated an index of water-deficit affiliation for more than 500 genera and 1800 species (Chapter 3), and demonstrated that this index can predict drought-induced mortality in several drought experiments (Chapter 4). Finally, I document how floristic and functional composition of Amazonian forests has shifted over the last 30 years: forests are increasingly dominated by large-statured taxa, and further, large trees are becoming even larger in absolute size (Chapters 5 and 6). However, relative gains in basal area were similar across size classes and canopy status. In addition, recruits are increasingly comprised of dry-affiliated genera, while the mortality of wet-affiliated genera has increased in plots where the dry season has become more intense. Communities are becoming more dry- affiliated, although these changes still lag behind the drying trend. Overall, this thesis shows the potential vulnerability of Amazonian biodiversity to an increase in aridity and supports the hypotheses that a changing climate and increased atmospheric CO2 are driving changes in Amazonian floristic and functional dynamics.
Supervisor: Phillips, Oliver ; Baker, Timothy ; Dexter, Kyle ; Lewis, Simon Sponsor: European Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available