NCEAS Project 12475

Determinants of relative species abundance: A cross-continental comparison of tropical tree communities

  • Liza S. Comita

ActivityDatesFurther Information
No activities scheduled at this time.

Determining the causes of commonness and rarity in ecological communities is essential for understanding how communities are structured and has important implications for biodiversity conservation. Identifying the determinants of species abundance has been particularly challenging in tropical forests, which are characterized by both high species richness and high rarity. The objectives of the proposed study are to examine the determinants of, and limits to, species abundances in tropical tree communities, and to investigate whether the processes shaping species relative abundance patterns differ among forests. Specifically, I will address the following questions: (1) Do resource requirements and habitat preferences shape species’ relative abundances in tropical tree communities? (2) Is there a phylogenetic signal in species relative abundance patterns? and (3) Does local-scale negative density dependence limit the abundance of tropical tree species? For the proposed project, I will take advantage of existing, standardized datasets from a global network of large forest dynamics plots coordinated by the Center for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS). CTFS possesses the world’s largest database on tropical tree dynamics, with information on over 3.5 million individuals of ~7500 species, estimated to represent 10% of all tropical tree species on earth. Using these data, I will test hypotheses concerning patterns of commonness and rarity both within and among tropical tree communities. Specifically, spatially-explicit analyses of survival and growth will be used to identify drivers of species abundance patterns within diverse plant communities. Comparisons among sites will allow for an assessment of the consistency of these drivers among tropical forests that vary in biogeographic history, species composition, climate, and disturbance regime. The proposed study will be among the most comprehensive cross-site analyses of species abundance and will provide fundamental information about how diverse ecological communities are structured. An understanding of the similarities and differences among tropical forests sites will aid efforts to conserve and restore the incredible diversity of the tropics. In addition, the project will yield multiple high-profile publications, and will result in publically available derived data products and a statistical package in R, which will facilitate future research efforts by scientists around the globe.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Chuyong, George; Kenfack, David; Harms, Kyle E.; Thomas, Duncan; Condit, Richard; Comita, Liza S. 2011. Habitat specificity and diversity of tree species in an African wet tropical forest. Plant Ecology. Vol: 212. Pages 1363-1374. (Online version)
Journal Article Comita, Liza S.; Muller-Landau, Helene C.; Aguilar, Salomon; Hubbell, Stephen P. 2010. Asymmetric density dependence shapes species abundances in a tropical tree community. Science. Vol: 329. Pages 330-332. (Online version)
Presentations Comita, Liza S. 2010. (Title not provided, Indian Inst. of Sciences). Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore, Centre for Ecological Sciences.
Presentations Comita, Liza S. 2010. (Title not provided, UCLA). University of California, Los Angeles, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department.
Presentations Comita, Liza S. 2010. (Title not provided, Univ. of Massachusetts). University of Massachusetts, Boston, Department of Biology. Boston, MA.
Presentations Comita, Liza S. 2011. Seeing the forest for the species: Within and cross-site comparisons of tropical forest dynamics using Bayesian hierarchical models. Center for Tropical Forest Science/Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatories symposium, February 2011. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Panama.
Presentations Comita, Liza S. 2011. (Title not provided, British Ecological Society Annual Symposium). British Ecological Society Annual Symposium, University of Cambridge, UK, 2011.
Presentations Comita, Liza S. 2011. (Title not provided, Center for Tropical Forest Science Symposium). Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama.
Presentations Comita, Liza S. 2011. (Title not provided, Climate Change and Forest Biodiversity Conservation Symposium). Climate Change and Forest Biodiversity Conservation Symposium, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Presentations Comita, Liza S. 2011. (Title not provided, Univ. of Nottingham). University of Nottingham, School of Biology, UK.
Journal Article Goldsmith, Gregory R.; Comita, Liza S.; Chin Chua, Siew. 2011. Evidence for arrested succession within a tropical forest fragment in Singapore. Journal of Tropical Ecology. Vol: 27. Pages 323-326. (Online version)
Journal Article Kanagaraj, R.; Wiegand, Thorsten; Comita, Liza S.; Huth, Andreas. 2011. Tropical tree species assemblages in topographical habitats change in time and with life stage. Journal of Ecology. Vol: 99(6). Pages 1441-1452.
Journal Article Lin, Luxiang; Comita, Liza S.; Zheng, Zheng; Cao, Min. 2012. Seasonal differentiation in density-dependent seedling survival in a tropical rain forest. Journal of Ecology. Vol: 100(4). Pages 905-914. (Online version)
Journal Article Queenborough, Simon A.; Comita, Liza S. 2011. Should ecological science be ethical?. Union Seminary Quarterly Review. Vol: 63. Pages 18-25.
Journal Article Wang, Xugao; Comita, Liza S.; Hao, Zhanqing; Davies, Stuart; Ye, Ji; Lin, Fei; Yuan, Zuoqiang. 2012. Local-scale drivers of tree survival in a temperate forest. PLoS ONE. Vol: 7(2). Pages e29469-e29469. (Online version)