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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. Abstract

    Each year, an average of 45 tropical cyclones affect coastal areas and potentially impact forests. The proportion of the most intense cyclones has increased over the past four decades and is predicted to continue to do so. Yet, it remains uncertain how topographical exposure and tree characteristics can mediate the damage caused by increasing wind speed. Here, we compiled empirical data on the damage caused by 11 cyclones occurring over the past 40 years, from 74 forest plots representing tropical regions worldwide, encompassing field data for 22,176 trees and 815 species. We reconstructed the wind structure of those tropical cyclones to estimate the maximum sustained wind speed (MSW) and wind direction at the studied plots. Then, we used a causal inference framework combined with Bayesian generalised linear mixed models to understand and quantify the causal effects of MSW, topographical exposure to wind (EXP), tree size (DBH) and species wood density (ρ) on the proportion of damaged trees at the community level, and on the probability of snapping or uprooting at the tree level. The probability of snapping or uprooting at the tree level and, hence, the proportion of damaged trees at the community level, increased with increasing MSW, and with increasing EXP accentuating the damaging effects of cyclones, in particular at higher wind speeds. Higherρdecreased the probability of snapping and to a lesser extent of uprooting. Larger trees tended to have lower probabilities of snapping but increased probabilities of uprooting. Importantly, the effect ofρdecreasing the probabilities of snapping was more marked for smaller than larger trees and was further accentuated at higher MSW. Our work emphasises how local topography, tree size and species wood density together mediate cyclone damage to tropical forests, facilitating better predictions of the impacts of such disturbances in an increasingly windier world.

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  4. null (Ed.)
  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  6. Blonder, Benjamin (Ed.)
  7. null (Ed.)