Growth Dynamics of Trees in Tropical Mountain Ecosystems

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Tropical mountain rainforests are commonly regarded as a stable ecosystem in which life processes face almost invariable environmental conditions. However, as discussed for the eastern Cordillera of Ecuador in Chapter 8, even the perhumid tropics experience a more or less pronounced seasonality of precipitation patterns. Intra annual fluctuations of temperature are small and usually do not depart more than 1–3 K from the annual mean. In contrast, diurnal temperature variations of 5.1 K and 11.1 K were recorded at elevations of 2670m a.s.l. and 1950m a.s.l., respectively. Short-term climate irregularities, e.g. during periods with prevailing westerly winds, can alter the normal climate conditions considerably and thus are of great significance for plant life. Furthermore, tremendous short-distance variations of the climate are caused by effects of altitude and topography (Richter 2003).