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  1. Abstract Tropical forest fragmentation from agricultural expansion alters the microclimatic conditions of the remaining forests, with effects on vegetation structure and function. However, little is known about how the functional trait variability within and among tree species in fragmented landscapes influence and facilitate species’ persistence in these new environmental conditions. Here, we assessed potential changes in tree species’ functional traits in riparian forests within six riparian forests in cropland catchments (Cropland) and four riparian forests in forested catchments (Forest) in southern Amazonia. We sampled 12 common functional traits of 123 species across all sites: 64 common to both croplands and forests, 33 restricted to croplands, and 26 restricted to forests. We found that forest-restricted species had leaves that were thinner, larger, and with higher phosphorus (P) content, compared to cropland-restricted ones. Tree species common to both environments showed higher intraspecific variability in functional traits, with leaf thickness and leaf P concentration varying the most. Species turnover contributed more to differences between forest and cropland environments only for the stem-specific density trait. We conclude that the intraspecific variability of functional traits (leaf thickness, leaf P, and specific leaf area) facilitates species persistence in riparian forests occurring within catchments cleared for agricultural expansion in Amazonia. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2023
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  4. Abstract

    Biodiversity losses have increased in tropical forests due to fire‐related disturbances. As landscape fragmentation and climate change increase, fires will become more frequent and widespread across tropical rain forests worldwide, with important implications for forest dynamics by altering plant–animal interactions. Here we tested the hypothesis that recurrent fires in tropical rain forests change bottom‐up and top‐down forces controlling the abundance of insect herbivores, which in turn increases herbivory. To quantify herbivory, we collected 50 leaves per tree of five species in burned and unburned experimental plots (N = 75) in southeastern Amazonian forests. We measured leaf nitrogen content and leaf thickness of tree leaves as bottom‐up factors that could explain differences in herbivory; we measured predation pressure on model caterpillars and estimated the abundance of predatory ants as top‐down factors. We found higher herbivory in burned than in unburned forests, as well as lower predator attacks in caterpillar models and lower abundance of predatory ants. Leaf nitrogen content did not vary across treatments. Birds attacked model caterpillars more frequently in burned than in unburned forests, and leaf thickness was higher in burned forests, but these factors together were not enough to offset the higher herbivory in burned plots. Fire degrades tropical forests not only by killing trees and altering their structure and community dynamics, but also by reducing predatory arthropods and disrupting predator–prey interactions, which triggers increased herbivory. These indirect impacts of recurrent fires probably contribute to further alter forest structure, functioning, and to decrease regeneration in Amazonian forests.

    Abstract in Portuguese is available with online material.

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  5. Abstract

    Drought, fire, and windstorms can interact to degrade tropical forests and the ecosystem services they provide, but how these forests recover after catastrophic disturbance events remains relatively unknown. Here, we analyze multi‐year measurements of vegetation dynamics and function (fluxes of CO2and H2O) in forests recovering from 7 years of controlled burns, followed by wind disturbance. Located in southeast Amazonia, the experimental forest consists of three 50‐ha plots burned annually, triennially, or not at all from 2004 to 2010. During the subsequent 6‐year recovery period, postfire tree survivorship and biomass sharply declined, with aboveground C stocks decreasing by 70%–94% along forest edges (0–200 m into the forest) and 36%–40% in the forest interior. Vegetation regrowth in the forest understory triggered partial canopy closure (70%–80%) from 2010 to 2015. The composition and spatial distribution of grasses invading degraded forest evolved rapidly, likely because of the delayed mortality. Four years after the experimental fires ended (2014), the burned plots assimilated 36% less carbon than the Control, but net CO2exchange and evapotranspiration (ET) had fully recovered 7 years after the experimental fires ended (2017). Carbon uptake recovery occurred largely in response to increased light‐use efficiency and reduced postfire respiration, whereas increased water use associated with postfire growth of new recruits and remaining trees explained the recovery in ET. Although the effects of interacting disturbances (e.g., fires, forest fragmentation, and blowdown events) on mortality and biomass persist over many years, the rapid recovery of carbon and water fluxes can help stabilize local climate.

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