Understanding variation in tree functional traits along topographic gradients and through time provides insights into the processes that will shape community composition and determine ecosystem functioning. In montane environments, complex topography is known to affect forest structure and composition, yet its role in determining trait composition, indices on community climatic tolerances, and responses to changing environmental conditions has not been fully explored. This study investigates how functional trait composition (characterized as community-weighted moments) and community climatic indices vary for the tree community as a whole and for its separate demographic components (i.e., dying, surviving, recruiting trees) over eight years in a topographically complex tropical Andean forest in southern Ecuador. We identified a strong influence of topography on functional composition and on species’ climatic optima, such that communities at lower topographic positions were dominated by acquisitive species adapted to both warmer and wetter conditions compared to communities at upper topographic positions which were dominated by conservative cold adapted species, possibly due to differences in soil conditions and hydrology. Forest functional and climatic composition remained stable through time; and we found limited evidence for trait-based responses to environmental change among demographic groups. Our findings confirm that fine-scale environmental conditions are a critical factor structuring plant communities in tropical forests, and suggest that slow environmental warming and community-based processes may promote short-term community functional stability. This study highlights the need to explore how diverse aspects of community trait composition vary in tropical montane forests, and to further investigate thresholds of forest response to environmental change.