Neotropical lowland forests along environmental gradients

Toledo, M. (2010). PhD thesis, Wageningen University, the Netherlands
ISBN: 978-90-8585-657-3, 157 pp.
with references, with summaries in English, Spanish and Dutch

Neotropical lowlands feature an extraordinary display of forests, especially in Bolivia where three biogeographical regions meet: the Amazon, Brazilian-Paranaense and Gran Chaco. The objective of this research was to evaluate how environmental factors shape lowland forests in Bolivia, using a network of 220 1-ha permanent sample plots distributed across climatic and edaphic gradients. For each plot, all stems 10 cm diameter were measured; climatic data were interpolated from weather stations and soil samples were collected. Annual rainfall, rainfall seasonality and temperature were the most important factors shaping forest structure, composition and dynamics, whereas soil fertility played, surprisingly, a minor role. The large variation found among these forests has to be taken into account when developing forest-specific management plans. The results of the gradient approach suggest that with future climate change (predicted decreases in rainfall and increases in temperature), drastic shifts can be expected in the species composition, structure, and dynamics of these tropical forests.

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