, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 115-124,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 10 Aug 2010

Assessing long-term changes in tropical forest dynamics: a first test using tree-ring analysis


There is growing evidence that tree turnover in tropical forests has increased over the last decades in permanent sample plots. This phenomenon is generally attributed to the increase in atmospheric CO2, but other causes cannot be ruled out. A proper evaluation of historical shifts in tree turnover requires data over longer periods than used so far. Here, we propose two methods to use tree-ring data for detecting long-term changes in tree turnover. We apply these methods to two non-pioneer tree species in a Bolivian moist forest. First, we checked for temporal changes in the frequency of growth releases to determine whether this frequency has increased over time. Second, we calculated the degree of temporal autocorrelation—a measure that indicates temporal changes in growth rates that are likely related to canopy dynamics—and checked for changes in this parameter over time. In addition, we performed analyses that corrected for ontogenetic increases in the measures used by analyzing residuals from size–growth relations. No evidence for the occurrence of a large-scale disturbance was found as we did not observe synchronization in the occurrence of releases in time. For both species, we did not detect changes in autocorrelation or release frequency over the last 200–300 years. Only in one size category, we found increased release frequency over time, probably as a result of a remaining ontogenetic effect. In all, our analyses do not provide evidence for long-term changes in tree turnover in the study area. We discuss the suitability of the proposed methods.

Communicated by A. Bräuning.
Contribution to the special issue “Tropical Dendroecology”.