Báez, S. & Homeier, J. (2018): <b>Functional traits determine tree growth and ecosystem productivity of a tropical montane forest: Insights from a long-term nutrient manipulation experiment</b>. <i>Global Change Biology</i> <b>24</b>(1), 399-409.
Functional traits determine tree growth and ecosystem productivity of a tropical montane forest: Insights from a long-term nutrient manipulation experiment
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Trait response-effects are critical to forecast community structure and biomass production in highly diverse tropical forests. Ecological theory and few observation studies indicate that trees with acquisitive functional traits would respond more strongly to higher resource availability than those with conservative traits. We assessed how long-term tree growth in experimental nutrient addition plots (N, P and N+P) varied as a function of morphological traits, tree size and species identity. We also evaluated how trait-based responses affected stand scale biomass production considering the community structure. We found that tree growth depended on interactions between functional traits and the type or combination of nutrients added. Common species with acquisitive functional traits responded more strongly to nutrient addition, mainly to N+P. Phosphorous enhanced the growth rates of species with acquisitive and conservative traits, had mostly positive effects on common species and neutral or negative effects in rare species. Moreover, trees receiving N+P grew faster irrespective of their initial size relative to control or to other treatment plots. Finally, species responses were highly idiosyncratic suggesting that community processes including competition and niche dimensionality may be altered under increased resource availability. We found no statistically significant effects of nutrient additions on aboveground biomass productivity because acquisitive species had a limited potential to increase their biomass, possibly due to their generally lower wood density. In contrast, P addition increased the growth rates of species characterized by more conservative resource strategies (with higher wood density) that were poorly represented in the plant community. We provide the first long-term experimental evidence that trait-based responses, community structure, and community processes modulate the effects of increased nutrient availability on biomass productivity in a tropical forest.