Plant Ecology

, Volume 219, Issue 12, pp 1481–1492 | Cite as

Effects of endogenous and exogenous processes on aboveground biomass stocks and dynamics in Andean forests

  • Miguel A. Peña
  • Kenneth J. Feeley
  • Alvaro DuqueEmail author


Tropical forests are paramount in regulating the global carbon cycle due to the storage of large amounts of carbon in their biomass. Using repeat censuses of permanent plots located at 15 sites in the Andes Mountains of northwest Colombia, we evaluate: (1) the relationship between aboveground biomass (AGB) stocks, AGB dynamics (mortality, productivity, and net change), and changes in temperature across a ca. 3000-m elevational gradient (≈ 16.1 °C); (2) how AGB mortality and AGB productivity interact to determine net AGB change; and (3) the extent to which either fine-grain (0.04-ha) or coarse-grain (1-ha) processes determine the AGB dynamics of these forests. We did not find a significant relationship between elevation/temperature and biomass stocks. The net AGB sequestered each year by these forests (2.21 ± 0.51 Mg ha−1 year−1), equivalent to approximately 1.09% of initial AGB, was primarily determined by tree growth. Both forest structural properties and global warming influenced AGB mortality and net change. AGB productivity increases with greater inequality of tree sizes, a pattern characteristic of forest patches recovering from disturbances. Overall, we find that global warming is triggering directional changes in species composition by thermophilization via increased tree mortality of species in the lower portions of their thermal ranges and that the inclusion of small-scale forest structural changes can effectively account for endogenous processes such as changes in forest structure. The inclusion of fine-grain processes in assessments of AGB dynamics could provide additional insights about the effects that ongoing climate change has on the functioning of tropical montane forests.


Carbon stocks Carbon dynamics Climate change Mountain ecosystems Thermophilization rate 



A.D. is supported by Agreement 312 established between Jardín Botánico “Joaquín Antonio Uribe” de Medellín and Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation (Peru), which includes the participation of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia Sede Medellín. K.J.F. is supported by the US National Science Foundation (DEB-1350125) and a grant from the Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation. Comments from two anonymous reviewers helped to significantly improve the quality of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

11258_2018_895_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.5 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1511 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Ciencias ForestalesUniversidad Nacional de Colombia – Sede MedellínMedellínColombia
  2. 2.Department of BiologyThe University of MiamiCoral GablesUSA

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