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  1. Abstract

    Numerous studies have shown reduced performance in plants that are surrounded by neighbours of the same species1,2, a phenomenon known as conspecific negative density dependence (CNDD)3. A long-held ecological hypothesis posits that CNDD is more pronounced in tropical than in temperate forests4,5, which increases community stabilization, species coexistence and the diversity of local tree species6,7. Previous analyses supporting such a latitudinal gradient in CNDD8,9have suffered from methodological limitations related to the use of static data10–12. Here we present a comprehensive assessment of latitudinal CNDD patterns using dynamic mortality data to estimate species-site-specific CNDD across 23 sites. Averaged across species, we found that stabilizing CNDD was present at all except one site, but that average stabilizing CNDD was not stronger toward the tropics. However, in tropical tree communities, rare and intermediate abundant species experienced stronger stabilizing CNDD than did common species. This pattern was absent in temperate forests, which suggests that CNDD influences species abundances more strongly in tropical forests than it does in temperate ones13. We also found that interspecific variation in CNDD, which might attenuate its stabilizing effect on species diversity14,15, was high but not significantly different across latitudes. Although the consequences of these patterns for latitudinal diversity gradients are difficult to evaluate, we speculate that a more effective regulation of population abundances could translate into greater stabilization of tropical tree communities and thus contribute to the high local diversity of tropical forests.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 21, 2025
  2. Abstract

    One mechanism proposed to explain high species diversity in tropical systems is strong negative conspecific density dependence (CDD), which reduces recruitment of juveniles in proximity to conspecific adult plants. Although evidence shows that plant-specific soil pathogens can drive negative CDD, trees also form key mutualisms with mycorrhizal fungi, which may counteract these effects. Across 43 large-scale forest plots worldwide, we tested whether ectomycorrhizal tree species exhibit weaker negative CDD than arbuscular mycorrhizal tree species. We further tested for conmycorrhizal density dependence (CMDD) to test for benefit from shared mutualists. We found that the strength of CDD varies systematically with mycorrhizal type, with ectomycorrhizal tree species exhibiting higher sapling densities with increasing adult densities than arbuscular mycorrhizal tree species. Moreover, we found evidence of positive CMDD for tree species of both mycorrhizal types. Collectively, these findings indicate that mycorrhizal interactions likely play a foundational role in global forest diversity patterns and structure.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  3. Summary

    As climate change drives increased drought in many forested regions, mechanistic understanding of the factors conferring drought tolerance in trees is increasingly important. The dendrochronological record provides a window through which we can understand how tree size and traits shape growth responses to droughts.

    We analyzed tree‐ring records for 12 species in a broadleaf deciduous forest in Virginia (USA) to test hypotheses for how tree height, microenvironment characteristics, and species’ traits shaped drought responses across the three strongest regional droughts over a 60‐yr period.

    Drought tolerance (resistance, recovery, and resilience) decreased with tree height, which was strongly correlated with exposure to higher solar radiation and evaporative demand. The potentially greater rooting volume of larger trees did not confer a resistance advantage, but marginally increased recovery and resilience, in sites with low topographic wetness index. Drought tolerance was greater among species whose leaves lost turgor (wilted) at more negative water potentials and experienced less shrinkage upon desiccation.

    The tree‐ring record reveals that tree height and leaf drought tolerance traits influenced growth responses during and after significant droughts in the meteorological record. As climate change‐induced droughts intensify, tall trees with drought‐sensitive leaves will be most vulnerable to immediate and longer‐term growth reductions.

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  4. null (Ed.)