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  1. Many tropical regions are experiencing an intensification of drought, with increasing severity and frequency of the events. However, the forest ecosystem response to these changes is still highly uncertain. It has been hypothesized that on short time scales (from diurnal to seasonal), tropical forests respond to water stress by physiological controls, such as stomata regulation and phenological adjustment, to control increasing atmospheric water demand and cope with reduced water supply. However, the interactions among biological processes and co-varying environmental factors that determine the ecosystem-level fluxes are still unclear. Furthermore, climate variability at longer time scales, such as that generated by ENSO, produces less predictable effects, which might vary among forests and ecoregions within the tropics. This study will present some emerging patterns of response to water stress from five years of observations of water, carbon, and energy fluxes on the seasonal tropical forest in Barro Colorado Island (Panama), including an increase in productivity during the 2015 El Niño. We will show how these responses will depend critically on the combination of environmental factors experienced by the forest along the seasonal cycle. These results suggest a critical role of plant hydraulics in mediating the response to water stress on a broadmore »range of temporal scales, including during the wet seasons when water availability is not a limiting factor. The study also found that the response to large-scale drought events is contingent and might produce a different outcome in different tropical forest areas.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  2. Although early theoretical work suggests that competition for light erodes successional diversity in forests, verbal models and recent numerical work with complex mechanistic forest simulators suggest that disturbance in such systems can maintain successional diversity. Nonetheless, if and how allocation tradeoffs between competitors interact with disturbance to maintain high diversity in successional systems remains poorly understood. Here, using mechanistic and analytically tractable models, we show that a theoretically unlimited number of coexisting species can be maintained by allocational tradeoffs such as investing in light-harvesting organs vs. height growth, investing in reproduction vs. growth or survival vs. growth. The models describe the successional dynamics of a forest composed of many patches subjected to random or periodic disturbance, and are consistent with physiologically mechanistic terrestrial ecosystem models, including the terrestrial components of recent Earth System Models. We show that coexistence arises in our models because species specialize in the successional time they best exploit the light environment and convert resources into seeds or contribute to advance regeneration. We also show that our results are relevant to non-forested ecosystems by demonstrating the emergence of similar dynamics in a mechanistic model of competition for light among annual plant species. Finally, we show that coexistencemore »in our models is relatively robust to the introduction of intraspecific variability that weakens the competitive hierarchy caused by asymmetric competition for light.« less
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