B1 Linking tree above- and belowground traits across environmental and disturbance gradients in highly diverse tropical montane forests [funded by DFG]

PI(s) for this project:

Dr. Jürgen Homeier
Prof. Dr. Christoph Leuschner


Functional traits are a highly useful tool (i) to describe the response of species and communities to their environment, (ii) to quantify how single traits or trait combinations are related to ecosystem functioning, and (iii) to predict how future species assemblages and their trait spectrum will affect ecosystem functioning under altered environmental conditions.
The proposed project will for the first time analyse the relation between aboveground and belowground traits in trees of highly diverse tropical mountain forests in a systematic way. A large number of leaf, stem and root traits of 52 native forest tree species (and additionally one cultivated tree species, and herbaceous species from pastures) will be examined with a replicated sampling design in the RESPECT (FOR2730) plot network. Target species have been preselected which systematically cover the co-existing plant functional types (PFTs) at each elevation level. Through forest plot inventories, we will quantify tree species’ abundances and PFT shares in the communities. Important biomass fractions and productivity are measured on the stand level. With our results we test six hypotheses on the functional trait variation of tropical montane forest trees.
The data will be analysed for linkages between above- and belowground traits on the species-level, PFT-level and stand level and if the relationships in the studied species match the ‘whole plant economics spectrum’ proposed in the literature. Replicate samples from different individuals per species allow for determining within-species trait variability. Based on the wide range of tree species investigated we also examine the importance of the phylogenetic signal for the variation in the studied traits. Using the environmental co-variates (e.g. soil, climate) recorded by cooperating projects we will analyse which tree response traits are sensitive to environmental changes and how tree effect traits affect tropical montane forest stand biomass and productivity.
This subproject is also responsible for identifying the sample trees used by RESPECT and it contributes actively in the parameterization of PTFs for the LSM. Stand level data on biomass and productivity will be used to calibrate the LSM.