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Tropical forest canopies and their relationships with climate and disturbance: results from a global dataset of consistent field-based measurements
Newcastle Univ, Sch Nat & Environm Sci, Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Univ Toronto, Dept Geog & Planning, Toronto.
CSIRO, Land & Water, Yarralumla; RMIT Univ, Sch Math & Geospatial Sci, Melbourne.
Univ Rey Juan Carlos, Dept Biol Geol Phys & Inorgan Chem, Madrid.
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2018 (English)In: Forest Ecosystems, ISSN 0015-7473, E-ISSN 2197-5620, Vol. 5, no 7Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background

Canopy structure, defined by leaf area index (LAI), fractional vegetation cover (FCover) and fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation (fAPAR), regulates a wide range of forest functions and ecosystem services. Spatially consistent field-measurements of canopy structure are however lacking, particularly for the tropics.

Methods

Here, we introduce the Global LAI database: a global dataset of field-based canopy structure measurements spanning tropical forests in four continents (Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas). We use these measurements to test for climate dependencies within and across continents, and to test for the potential of anthropogenic disturbance and forest protection to modulate those dependences.

Results

Using data collected from 887 tropical forest plots, we show that maximum water deficit, defined across the most arid months of the year, is an important predictor of canopy structure, with all three canopy attributes declining significantly with increasing water deficit. Canopy attributes also increase with minimum temperature, and with the protection of forests according to both active (within protected areas) and passive measures (through topography). Once protection and continent effects are accounted for, other anthropogenic measures (e.g. human population) do not improve the model.

Conclusions

We conclude that canopy structure in the tropics is primarily a consequence of forest adaptation to the maximum water deficits historically experienced within a given region. Climate change, and in particular changes in drought regimes may thus affect forest structure and function, but forest protection may offer some resilience against this effect.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 5, no 7
Keyword [en]
Leaf area index, Fractional vegetation cover, Fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation, Human population pressure, Protected areas, Drought, Climate change
National Category
Forest Science Agricultural Science, Forestry and Fisheries
Research subject
Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-339152DOI: 10.1186/s40663-017-0118-7ISI: 000423204700001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-339152DiVA, id: diva2:1174898
Funder
EU, European Research Council, ERC-2011-; StG_20101109; 281986
Available from: 2018-01-17 Created: 2018-01-17 Last updated: 2018-03-09Bibliographically approved

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