Amazonian functional diversity from forest canopy chemical assembly

Gregory P. Asner, Roberta E. Martin, Raul Tupayachi, Christopher B. Anderson, Felipe Sinca, Loreli Carranza-Jiménez, Paola Martinez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


Patterns of tropical forest functional diversity express processes of ecological assembly at multiple geographic scales and aid in predicting ecological responses to environmental change. Tree canopy chemistry underpins forest functional diversity, but the interactive role of phylogeny and environment in determining the chemical traits of tropical trees is poorly known. Collecting and analyzing foliage in 2,420 canopy tree species across 19 forests in the western Amazon, we discovered (i) systematic, communityscale shifts in average canopy chemical traits along gradients of elevation and soil fertility; (ii) strong phylogenetic partitioning of structural and defense chemicals within communities independent of variation in environmental conditions; and (iii) strong environmental control on foliar phosphorus and calcium, the two rockderived elements limiting CO2 uptake in tropical forests. These findings indicate that the chemical diversity of western Amazonian forests occurs in a regionally nested mosaic driven by long-term chemical trait adjustment of communities to large-scale environmental filters, particularly soils and climate, and is supported by phylogenetic divergence of traits essential to foliar survival under varying environmental conditions. Geographically nested patterns of forest canopy chemical traits will play a role in determining the response and functional rearrangement of western Amazonian ecosystems to changing land use and climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5604-5609
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 15 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Amazon Basin
  • Biological Diversity
  • Chemical Phylogeny
  • Community Assembly
  • Leaf Traits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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