Brazilian Journal of Botany

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 451–461 | Cite as

Soil controls biomass and dynamics of an Amazonian forest through the shifting of species and traits

  • José Julio Toledo
  • Carolina V. Castilho
  • William E. Magnusson
  • Henrique E. M. Nascimento
Original Article


The effects of soil on tree species composition and trait distributions in tropical forest, and how these interactions affect tree biomass and dynamics, are poorly understood because variation in soil is confounded with variation in climate over large areas. We excluded confounding due to climate by studying variation among 72 1-ha plots within 64 km2, and minimized within-plot variation in soil and stand properties by using long narrow plots oriented along altitudinal contours in Reserva Ducke, Central Amazonia, Brazil. Soil variation caused shifts in tree species composition, which determined stand-level wood density. Soil clay content, cation exchange capacity, plot mean wood density and one-dimensional ordination of tree species composition explained about 40% of variation in tree biomass, 24% of variation in tree mortality and 18% of variation in coarse wood production. As pioneer species were not abundant, lower biomass and higher mortality on sandy soils is a consequence of dominance of species with low to medium wood density adapted to waterlogged and nutrient-poor sandy soils. Therefore, mesoscale variation in biomass and dynamics is caused by co-occurrence of species with similar traits in different parts of the edaphic gradient. Identification of mechanisms controlling tree biomass and dynamics in Amazonian forest will require better understanding of tree–soil physiologic interactions.


Central Amazonia Coarse wood production Functional traits Mesoscale variation Tree mortality Wood density 



JJT received a fellowship from Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) through the Post-Doctorate National Program (PNPD) during manuscript elaboration. Financial support was provided by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation through Programa BECA—IEB (B/2006/01/BDP/04), CNPq/Universal (473989/2006-9) and the Brazilian Long-Term Ecological Research Program (CNPq/PELD #520039/98-0). Logistical support was provided by PELD, INPA and Brazilian Biodiversity Research Program (PPBio). We thank José S. Lopez, Oscinei S. Monteiro, F. Helena Aguiar and Paulo R. Pinto for help with field work. Data repositories are maintained by PPBio, PELD and the National Institute of Science and Technology for Amazonian Biodiversity (ICNT—CENBAM).]

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 143 kb)
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Copyright information

© Botanical Society of Sao Paulo 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • José Julio Toledo
    • 1
  • Carolina V. Castilho
    • 2
  • William E. Magnusson
    • 3
  • Henrique E. M. Nascimento
    • 3
  1. 1.Universidade Federal do AmapáMacapáBrazil
  2. 2.Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária - EMBRAPA, Centro de Pesquisa Agroflorestal de RoraimaBoa VistaBrazil
  3. 3.Coordenação de Biodiversidade, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia - INPAManausBrazil

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