Questions: Which demographic and life-history differences are found among 95 sympatric tree species? Are there correlations among demographic parameters within this assemblage?
Location: Central Amazonian rain forest.
Methods: Using long-term data from 24 1-ha permanent plots, eight characteristics were estimated for each species: wood density, annual mortality rate, annual recruitment rate, mean stem diameter, maximum stem diameter, mean stem-growth rate, maximum stem-growth rate, population density.
Results: An ordination analysis revealed that tree characteristics varied along two major axes of variation, the major gradient expressing light requirements and successional status, and the second gradient related to tree size. Along these gradients, four relatively discrete tree guilds could be distinguished: fast-growing pioneer species, shade-tolerant subcanopy species, canopy trees, and emergent species. Pioneers were uncommon and most trees were canopy or emergent species, which frequently had low mortality and recruitment. Wood density was negatively associated with tree mortality, recruitment, and growth rates when all species were considered. Growth rates varied markedly among and within species, with pioneers exhibiting far faster and less variable growth rates than did the other species. Slow growth in subcanopy species relative to canopy and emergent trees was not a simple consequence of mean tree size, but apparently resulted from physiological constraints imposed by low-light and other conditions in the forest understorey.
Conclusions: Trees of Amazonian rain forests could be classified with some success into four relatively distinctive guilds. However, several demographic and life-history traits, such as those that distinguish early and late successional species, probably vary along a continuum, rather than being naturally grouped into relatively discrete categories.
Nomenclature: Ribeiro et al. (1999).
Abbreviation: BDFFP = Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project.