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Demographic Drivers of Aboveground Biomass Dynamics During Secondary Succession in Neotropical Dry and Wet Forests

Abstract

The magnitude of the carbon sink in second-growth forests is expected to vary with successional biomass dynamics resulting from tree growth, recruitment, and mortality, and with the effects of climate on these dynamics. We compare aboveground biomass dynamics of dry and wet Neotropical forests, based on monitoring data gathered over 3–16 years in forests covering the first 25 years of succession. We estimated standing biomass, annual biomass change, and contributions of tree growth, recruitment, and mortality. We also evaluated tree species’ contributions to biomass dynamics. Absolute rates of biomass change were lower in dry forests, 2.3 and 1.9 Mg ha−1 y−1, after 5–15 and 15–25 years after abandonment, respectively, than in wet forests, with 4.7 and 6.1 Mg ha−1 y−1, in the same age classes. Biomass change was largely driven by tree growth, accounting for at least 48% of biomass change across forest types and age classes. Mortality also contributed strongly to biomass change in wet forests of 5–15 years, whereas its contribution became important later in succession in dry forests. Biomass dynamics tended to be dominated by fewer species in early-successional dry than wet forests, but dominance was strong in both forest types. Overall, our results indicate that biomass dynamics during succession are faster in Neotropical wet than dry forests, with high tree mortality earlier in succession in the wet forests. Long-term monitoring of second-growth tropical forest plots is crucial for improving estimates of annual biomass change, and for enhancing understanding of the underlying mechanisms and demographic drivers.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to numerous field assistants for their help with field work, local institutions for logistical support, and local communities for their hospitality. Funding was provided by the US National Science Foundation DEB-0639114, DEB-1147434, DEB-0424767, DEB-0639393, DEB-1147429; by the NASA Terrestrial Ecology Program, NASA LBA, the University of Connecticut Research Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; in Mexico by SEMARNAT-CONACYT 2002-C01-0597, 2002-C01-0267 and 2004-C01-227, SEP-CONACYT CB-2005-01-51043, 2009-129740, and CB-2009-01-128136, FOMIX Yucatán-CONACYT YUC2004-003-027, PAPIIT-DGAPA-UNAM IN218416, IN213714, and IN227210, CONACYT PhD scholarship, support of the Panamanian Sistema Nacional de Investigación-Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación, by grant W85-326 from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, a PhD grant from Wageningen University, and the FOREFRONT-INREF program; and in Brazil by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq), the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Amazonas (FAPEAM), the Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia dos Serviços Ambientais da Amazônia (INCT/Servamb), and the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP). This is publication #701 in the Technical Series of the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project BDFFP-INPA-SI.

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Correspondence to Danaë M. A. Rozendaal.

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DMAR, RLC, and FB conceived the study. RLC, FAV, PB, TVB, JMD, JLHS, CCJ, EELT, ML, MMR, PESM, JAM, RCGM, FM, EAPG, IERP, ISP, MvB, GBW, and FB performed field work. DMAR analyzed data and wrote the paper, all other authors commented on the manuscript.

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Rozendaal, D.M.A., Chazdon, R.L., Arreola-Villa, F. et al. Demographic Drivers of Aboveground Biomass Dynamics During Secondary Succession in Neotropical Dry and Wet Forests. Ecosystems 20, 340–353 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-016-0029-4

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Keywords

  • Biomass accumulation
  • carbon sink
  • forest dynamics
  • Neotropics
  • species’ dominance
  • tree demography
  • second-growth tropical forest