Trait-based Ecology

Effects of climate changes on Andean forests

One of the main challenges in global ecology is predicting the effect of climate changes on terrestrial ecosystems. Andean forests are a global biodiversity hotspot and are facing unprecedented climate changes. However, it is still unclear how these climate changes will impact the functioning of tree communities. Using Trait-Driver theory, the goal of this project is to evaluate shifts in the functional composition of tree communities along an over 2000 meters elevation gradient in Andean forests. Specifically, this project is testing the hypotheses that 1) decreases in temperature along elevation will promote a higher abundance of species with conservative traits, 2) test whether plant trait composition had change along elevation in the last decade, and 3) test whether increases in temperature and vapor pressure deficit are modulating changes in the functional composition of tree species (Martínez-Villa et al. under review).

Study area with nine permanent plots at higher (2000-2900 m, triangles) , medium (1000-2000 m circles), and low elevations (50-1000 m, squares)

Long-term changes in forest structure and trait composition in a tropical dry forest

Understanding the relative importance of land use legacies and climate changes on the structure and composition of plant communities remains a central goal in ecology.
Increasing evidence indicate that tropical forests are experiencing changes in structure and composition, such as. increases in tree turnover rates, biomass gain, and
abundance of some functional groups. Despite this evidence, little is known about the temporal shifts in functional composition, and how these shifts relate to biotic
and abiotic conditions. This project will assess long-term changes in a tropical dry forest to understand the relative influence of past disturbance and climate on trait composition and forest structure. We will use a 16-ha plot sampled over 30 years to evaluate shifts in functional composition for 9 traits related to resource acquisition and drought tolerance, and how these shifts in traits affect forest biomass carbon and woody productivity.