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Negative density-dependent mortality varies over time in a wet tropical forest, advantaging rare species, common species, or no species

Abstract

Although one of the most widely studied hypotheses for high tree diversity in the tropics, the Janzen–Connell hypothesis (JC), and the community compensatory trend upon which it is based, have conflicting support from prior studies. Some of this variation could arise from temporal variation in seedling survival of common and rare species. Using 10 years of data from La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, we analyzed annual seedling survival and found that negative density-dependence (negative DD) was significantly stronger for rare species than for common species in 2 years and was significantly stronger for common species than for rare species in 4 years. This temporal variation in survival was correlated with climatic variables: in warmer and wetter years, common species had higher negative DD than rare species. The relationship between climate and variation in JC effects on seedling survival of common and rare species could have important consequences for the maintenance of tree species diversity in Central America, which is predicted to experience warmer and wetter years as global change proceeds.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to NSF (DEB 0075472, 0640904, 0743609) for funding a large part of this project. We would like to thank Ademar Hurtado Flores and Ralph Garcia Robleto who are responsible for the long-term censuses being conducted at La Selva. We also would like to thank Liza Comita and Maria Uriarte for their comments and ideas pertaining to the study. We thank Rachael Eaton, Dr. Katherine Gross, and anonymous reviewers for help editing this manuscript. Finally, the study complies with the current laws of Costa Rica in which the study was performed.

Author contribution statements

BB and RKK developed the study question. RKK and CV established the long-term transects and are in charge of the long-term transects. BB analyzed the data. BB wrote the first draft of the manuscript. RKK contributed to subsequent drafts.

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Correspondence to Bénédicte Bachelot.

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Communicated by Walt Carson.

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Bachelot, B., Kobe, R.K. & Vriesendorp, C. Negative density-dependent mortality varies over time in a wet tropical forest, advantaging rare species, common species, or no species. Oecologia 179, 853–861 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-015-3402-7

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Keywords

  • Janzen–Connell hypothesis
  • Negative density-dependence
  • Community compensatory trend
  • Global change
  • Tropical lowland rainforest