Climate severity and land-cover transformation determine plant community attributes in Colombian dry forests
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Posada, Juan M.
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Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Tropical dry forests (TDF) are known to be resource-limited due to a marked seasonality in precipitation. However, TDF are also shaped by factors such as solar radiation, wind speed, soil fertility, and land-cover transformation. Together, these factors may determine different gradients of environmental harshness that are likely to drive changes in plant community attributes. Here, we evaluated the effects of environmental harshness on plant community diversity and structure of Colombian TDF, based on floristic and environmental data from 15 1-ha permanent plots. We also analyzed these effects on legumes species only (including both deciduous and non-deciduous species), deciduous species only (including both legumes and non-legumes species), and on the whole community excluding either legumes or deciduous separately. Drier conditions and higher land-cover transformation had the strongest negative effects on species diversity, basal area (BA), and canopy height. Soil fertility, on the contrary, did not have a significant effect on any of the evaluated response variables. Interestingly, legumes maintained their diversity and BA along the climatic gradient, while deciduous species were negatively affected by drier conditions and by an increase in secondary vegetation at the landscape level. Our results suggest that although TDF are limited by water availability, land-cover transformation strongly increases environmental harshness. Yet, both legumes and deciduous species were differentially impacted by climatic and land transformation variables. Thus, to better understand TDF plant community attributes, it is necessary to consider these gradients and to disentangle their effects on different plant functional groups. Abstract in Spanish is available with online material. © 2019 The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation
Basal area , Canopy architecture , Climate change , Community structure , Deciduous forest , Dry forest , Environmental gradient , Functional group , Land cover , Legume , Plant community , Species diversity , Species richness , Tropical forest , Colombia , Basal area , Branching , Canopy height , Deciduous , Diversity , Forest structure , Legumes , Species richness