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  1. Abstract Aim

    The climate variability hypothesis proposes that species subjected to wide variation in climatic conditions will evolve wider niches, resulting in larger distributions. We test this hypothesis in tropical plants across a broad elevational gradient; specifically, we use a species‐level approach to evaluate whether elevational range sizes are explained by the levels of thermal variability experienced by species.


    Central Andes.

    Time Period

    Present day.


    Woody plants.


    Combining data from 479 forest plots, we determined the elevational distributions of nearly 2300 species along an elevational gradient (~209–3800 m). For each species, we calculated the maximum annual variation in temperature experienced across its elevational distribution. We used phylogenetic generalized least square models to evaluate the effect of thermal variability on range size. Our models included additional covariates that might affect range size: body size, local abundance, mean temperature and total precipitation. We also considered interactions between thermal variability and mean temperature or precipitation. To account for geometric constraints, we repeated our analyses with a standardized measure of range size, calculated by comparing observed range sizes with values obtained from a null model.


    Our results supported the main prediction of the climate variability hypothesis. Thermal variability had a strong positive effect on the range size, with species exposed to higher thermal variability having broader elevational distributions. Body size and local abundance also had positive, yet weak effects, on elevational range size. Furthermore, there was a strong positive interaction between thermal variability and mean annual temperature.

    Main Conclusions

    Thermal variability had an overriding importance in driving elevational range sizes of woody plants in the Central Andes. Moreover, the relationship between thermal variability and range size might be even stronger in warmer regions, underlining the potential vulnerability of tropical montane floras to the effects of global warming.

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  2. This item contains version 5.0 of the Madidi Project's full dataset. The zip file contains (1) raw data, which was downloaded from Tropicos ( on August 18, 2020; (2) R scripts used to modify, correct, and clean the raw data; (3) clean data that are the output of the R scripts, and which are the point of departure for most uses of the Madidi Dataset; (4) post-cleaning scripts that obtain additional but non-essential information from the clean data (e.g. by extracting environmental data from rasters); and (5) a miscellaneous collection of additional non-essential information and figures. This item also includes the Data Use Policy for this dataset.

    The core dataset of the Madidi Project consists of a network of ~500 forest plots distributed in and around the Madidi National Park in Bolivia. This network contains 50 permanently marked large plots (1-ha), as well as >450 temporary small plots (0.1-ha). Within the large plots, all woody individuals with a dbh ≥10 cm have been mapped, tagged, measured, and identified. Some of these plots have also been re-visited and information on mortality, recruitment, and growth exists. Within the small plots, all woody individuals with a dbh ≥2.5 cm have been measured and identified. Each plot has some edaphic and topographic information, and some large plots have information on various plant functional traits.

    The Madidi Project is a collaborative research effort to document and study plant biodiversity in the Amazonia and Tropical Andes of northwestern Bolivia. The project is currently lead by the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG), in collaboration with the Herbario Nacional de Bolivia. The management of the project is at MBG, where J. Sebastian Tello ( is the scientific director. The director oversees the activities of a research team based in Bolivia. MBG works in collaboration with other data contributors (currently: Manuel J. Macía [], Gabriel Arellano [] and Beatriz Nieto []), with a representative from the Herbario Nacional de Bolivia (LPB; Carla Maldonado []), as well as with other close associated researchers from various institutions. For more information regarding the organization and objectives of the Madidi Project, you can visit the project’s website (

    The Madidi project has been supported by generous grants from the National Science Foundation (DEB 0101775, DEB 0743457, DEB 1836353), and the National Geographic Society (NGS 7754-04 and NGS 8047-06). Additional financial support for the Madidi Project has been provided by the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Comunidad de Madrid (Spain), the Universidad Autónima de Madrid, and the Taylor and Davidson families. 
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  3. Abstract We introduce the FunAndes database, a compilation of functional trait data for the Andean flora spanning six countries. FunAndes contains data on 24 traits across 2,694 taxa, for a total of 105,466 entries. The database features plant-morphological attributes including growth form, and leaf, stem, and wood traits measured at the species or individual level, together with geographic metadata (i.e., coordinates and elevation). FunAndes follows the field names, trait descriptions and units of measurement of the TRY database. It is currently available in open access in the FIGSHARE data repository, and will be part of TRY’s next release. Open access trait data from Andean plants will contribute to ecological research in the region, the most species rich terrestrial biodiversity hotspot. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract It is largely unknown how South America’s Andean forests affect the global carbon cycle, and thus regulate climate change. Here, we measure aboveground carbon dynamics over the past two decades in 119 monitoring plots spanning a range of >3000 m elevation across the subtropical and tropical Andes. Our results show that Andean forests act as strong sinks for aboveground carbon (0.67 ± 0.08 Mg C ha −1 y −1 ) and have a high potential to serve as future carbon refuges. Aboveground carbon dynamics of Andean forests are driven by abiotic and biotic factors, such as climate and size-dependent mortality of trees. The increasing aboveground carbon stocks offset the estimated C emissions due to deforestation between 2003 and 2014, resulting in a net total uptake of 0.027 Pg C y −1 . Reducing deforestation will increase Andean aboveground carbon stocks, facilitate upward species migrations, and allow for recovery of biomass losses due to climate change. 
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  5. Abstract Aim

    Ecological niches shape species commonness and rarity, yet, the relative importance of different niche mechanisms within and across ecosystems remains unresolved. We tested the influence of niche breadth (range of environmental conditions where species occur) and niche position (marginality of a species’ environmental distribution relative to the mean environmental conditions of a region) on tree‐species abundance and occupancy across three biogeographic regions.


    Argentinian Andes; Bolivian Amazon; Missouri Ozarks.

    Time period


    Major taxa studied



    We calculated abiotic‐niche breadths and abiotic‐niche positions using 16 climate, soil and topographic variables. For each region, we used model selection to test the relative influence of niche breadth and niche position on local abundance and occupancy in regional‐scale networks of 0.1‐ha forest plots. To account for species–environment associations caused by other mechanisms (e.g., dispersal), we used null models that randomized associations between species occurrences and environmental variables.


    We found strong support for the niche‐position hypothesis. In all regions, species with higher local abundance and occupancy occurred in non‐marginal environments. Observed relationships between occupancy and niche position also differed from random species–environment associations in all regions. Surprisingly, we found little support for the niche‐breadth hypothesis. Observed relationships between both local abundance and niche breadth, and occupancy and niche breadth, did not differ from random species–environment associations.

    Main conclusion

    Niche position was more important than niche breadth in shaping species commonness and rarity across temperate, sub‐tropical and tropical forests. In all forests, tree species with widespread geographic distributions were associated with environmental conditions commonly found throughout the region, suggesting that niche position has similar effects on species occupancy across contrasting biogeographic regions. Our findings imply that conservation efforts aimed at protecting populations of common and rare tree species should prioritize conservation of both common and rare habitats.

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  6. Summary

    Recent studies have demonstrated that ecological processes that shape community structure and dynamics change along environmental gradients. However, much less is known about how the emergence of the gradients themselves shape the evolution of species that underlie community assembly. In this study, we address how the creation of novel environments leads to community assembly via two nonmutually exclusive processes: immigration and ecological sorting of pre‐adapted clades (ISPC), and recent adaptive diversification (RAD). We study these processes in the context of the elevational gradient created by the uplift of the Central Andes.

    We develop a novel approach and method based on the decomposition of species turnover into within‐ and among‐clade components, where clades correspond to lineages that originated before mountain uplift. Effects of ISPC and RAD can be inferred from how components of turnover change with elevation. We test our approach using data from over 500 Andean forest plots.

    We found that species turnover between communities at different elevations is dominated by the replacement of clades that originated before the uplift of the Central Andes.

    Our results suggest that immigration and sorting of clades pre‐adapted to montane habitats is the primary mechanism shaping tree communities across elevations.

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