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The intermediate disturbance hypothesis applies to tropical forests, but disturbance contributes little to tree diversity.

Authors
  • Bongers, Frans1
  • Poorter, Lourens
  • Hawthorne, William D
  • Sheil, Douglas
  • 1 Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group, Centre for Ecosystem Studies, Wageningen University, PO Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands. [email protected] , (Netherlands)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Ecology Letters
Publisher
Wiley (Blackwell Publishing)
Publication Date
August 2009
Volume
12
Issue
8
Pages
798–805
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01329.x
PMID: 19473218
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

The intermediate disturbance hypothesis (IDH) predicts local species diversity to be maximal at an intermediate level of disturbance. Developed to explain species maintenance and diversity patterns in species-rich ecosystems such as tropical forests, tests of IDH in tropical forest remain scarce, small-scale and contentious. We use an unprecedented large-scale dataset (2504 one-hectare plots and 331,567 trees) to examine whether IDH explains tree diversity variation within wet, moist and dry tropical forests, and we analyse the underlying mechanism by determining responses within functional species groups. We find that disturbance explains more variation in diversity of dry than wet tropical forests. Pioneer species numbers increase with disturbance, shade-tolerant species decrease and intermediate species are indifferent. While diversity indeed peaks at intermediate disturbance levels little variation is explained outside dry forests, and disturbance is less important for species richness patterns in wet tropical rain forests than previously thought.

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