Diverging taxonomic and functional trajectories following disturbance in a Neotropical forest


In the current global change context, it is urgent to anticipate the fate of tropical forests. This means understanding tree community response to disturbance and the underlying processes. In that respect, we aim here to clarify taxonomic and functional post-disturbance trajectories, and determine the scope of the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis (IDH) that remains debated in tropical forests. We analyzed community trajectories following a disturbance gradient from 10 to 60% of above-ground biomass loss in a Neotropical forest over 30 years. We considered trajectories along time of community taxonomic and functional trajectories in terms of richness, evenness, composition, and redundancy. We based on the annual botanical inventories of 75 ha of a Neotropical forest and on large trait datasets comprising seven leaf, stem, and life-history traits. We identified a decoupling between taxonomic composition, differing among communities, and functional composition, similar among communities and convergent in the functional space. The taxonomic diversity followed humped-shaped trajectories along time after disturbance depending on the initial disturbance intensity, which validated the IDH (Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis). The functional diversity trajectories, however, were homogeneous among plots and dismissed the IDH. We explained this decoupling by the variations in community functional redundancy that mitigated the functional impact of disturbance. Although consistent, the recovery of community composition, diversity, and redundancy remained divergent from the initial state after 30 years. These results acknowledged the need of decades-long cycles without disturbance to ensure community complete recovery.

Science of The Total Environment