, Volume 174, Issue 1, pp 295–306 | Cite as

The sensitivity of wood production to seasonal and interannual variations in climate in a lowland Amazonian rainforest

  • Lucy RowlandEmail author
  • Y. Malhi
  • J. E. Silva-Espejo
  • F. Farfán-Amézquita
  • K. Halladay
  • C. E. Doughty
  • P. Meir
  • O. L. Phillips
Ecosystem ecology - Original research


Understanding climatic controls on tropical forest productivity is key to developing more reliable models for predicting how tropical biomes may respond to climate change. Currently there is no consensus on which factors control seasonal changes in tropical forest tree growth. This study reports the first comprehensive plot-level description of the seasonality of growth in a Peruvian tropical forest. We test whether seasonal and interannual variations in climate are correlated with changes in biomass increment, and whether such relationships differ among trees with different functional traits. We found that biomass increments, measured every 3 months on the two plots, were reduced by between 40 and 55 % in the peak dry season (July–September) relative to peak wet season (January–March). The seasonal patterns of biomass accumulation are significantly (p < 0.01) associated with seasonal patterns of rainfall and soil water content; however, this may reflect a synchrony of seasonal cycles rather than direct physiological controls on tree growth rates. The strength of the growth seasonality response among trees is significantly correlated to functional traits: consistent with a hypothesised trade-off between maximum potential growth rate and hydraulic safety, tall and fast-growing trees with broad stems had the most strongly seasonal biomass accumulation, suggesting that they are more productive in the wet season, but more vulnerable to water limitation in the dry season.


Tropical tree growth Temperature sensitivity Soil water availability Functional traits Amazon rainforest Seasonality 



This paper is a product of the RAINFOR, ABERG and GEM research consortia. We thank the staff at Explorer’s Inn (Tambopata) for their support during this project, particularly Zuzana Bartáková and Laura Rantala. Similarly we thank Casey Ryan for providing advice and proof reading, as well as anonymous reviewers who contributed significantly to this manuscript. We also thank INRENA for providing permits to work in the Tambopata Reserve. This work was supported by funding to L. R. from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Long-term data collection at Tambopata was supported by grants to Y. M., O. P., and P. M. from NERC (grants NE/D01025X/1, NE/D014174/1, NE/F01680/1) and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. O. P. and Y. M. are supported by Advanced Investigator Grants from the European Research Council, Y. M. is also supported by the Jackson Foundation and O. P. by a Royal Society Wolfson Research Fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lucy Rowland
    • 1
    Email author
  • Y. Malhi
    • 2
  • J. E. Silva-Espejo
    • 3
  • F. Farfán-Amézquita
    • 3
  • K. Halladay
    • 2
  • C. E. Doughty
    • 2
  • P. Meir
    • 1
    • 5
  • O. L. Phillips
    • 4
  1. 1.School of GeosciencesThe University of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.School of Geography and the EnvironmentThe University of OxfordOxfordUK
  3. 3.Universidad San Antonio AbadCuscoPeru
  4. 4.School of GeographyThe University of LeedsLeedsUK
  5. 5.Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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