NCEAS Product 25659

Taylor, Philip G.; Cleveland, Cory C.; Soper, Fiona; Wieder, William R.; Dobrowski, Solomon Z.; Doughty, Christopher E.; Townsend, Alan R. 2019. Greater stem growth, woody allocation, and aboveground biomass in Paleotropical forests than in Neotropical forests. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America. (Abstract) (Online version)


Forest dynamics and tree species composition vary substantially between Paleotropical and Neotropical forests, but these broad biogeographic regions are treated uniformly in many land models. To assess whether these regional differences translate into variation in productivity and carbon (C) storage, we compiled a database of climate, tree stem growth, litterfall, aboveground net primary production (ANPP), and aboveground biomass across tropical rainforest sites spanning 33 countries throughout Central and South America, Asia, and Australasia, but excluding Africa due to a paucity of available data. Though the sum of litterfall and stem growth (ANPP) did not differ between regions, both stem growth and the ratio of stem growth to litterfall were higher in Paleotropical forests compared to Neotropical forests across the full observed range of ANPP. Greater C allocation to woody growth likely explains the much larger aboveground biomass estimates in Paleotropical forests (~29%, or ~80 Mg DW/ha, greater than in the Neotropics). Climate was similar in Paleo‐ and Neotropical forests, thus the observed differences in C likely reflect differences in the evolutionary history of species and forest structure and function between regions. Our analysis suggests that Paleotropical forests, which can be dominated by tall‐statured Dipterocarpaceae species, may be disproportionate hotspots for aboveground C storage. Land models typically treat these distinct tropical forests with differential structures as a single functional unit, but our findings suggest that this may overlook critical biogeographic variation in C storage potential among regions.