Letter | Published:

Resilience of Amazon forests emerges from plant trait diversity

Nature Climate Change volume 6, pages 10321036 (2016) | Download Citation

Abstract

Climate change threatens ecosystems worldwide, yet their potential future resilience remains largely unquantified1. In recent years many studies have shown that biodiversity, and in particular functional diversity, can enhance ecosystem resilience by providing a higher response diversity2,3,4,5. So far these insights have been mostly neglected in large-scale projections of ecosystem responses to climate change6. Here we show that plant trait diversity, as a key component of functional diversity, can have a strikingly positive effect on the Amazon forests’ biomass under future climate change. Using a terrestrial biogeochemical model that simulates diverse forest communities on the basis of individual tree growth7, we show that plant trait diversity may enable the Amazon forests to adjust to new climate conditions via a process of ecological sorting, protecting the Amazon’s carbon sink function. Therefore, plant trait diversity, and biodiversity in general, should be considered in large-scale ecosystem projections and be included as an integral part of climate change research and policy.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    , , , & Impacts of climate change on the future of biodiversity. Ecol. Lett. 15, 365–377 (2012).

  2. 2.

    Ecological Resilience—in theory and application. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 31, 425–439 (2000).

  3. 3.

    , & Response diversity determines the resilience of ecosystems to environmental change. Biol. Rev. 88, 349–364 (2013).

  4. 4.

    et al. Anthropogenic environmental changes affect ecosystem stability via biodiversity. Science 348, 336–340 (2010).

  5. 5.

    , & Beyond species: functional diversity and the maintenance of ecological processes and services. J. Appl. Ecol. 48, 1079–1087 (2011).

  6. 6.

    , , & Evaluation of the terrestrial carbon cycle, future plant geography and climate–carbon cycle feedbacks using five Dynamic Global Vegetation Models (DGVMs). Glob. Change Biol. 14, 2015–2039 (2008).

  7. 7.

    et al. Leaf and stem economics spectra drive diversity of functional plant traits in a dynamic global vegetation model. Glob. Change Biol. 21, 2711–2725 (2015).

  8. 8.

    Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 4, 1–23 (1973).

  9. 9.

    , & Forest Resilience, Biodiversity, and Climate Change. A Synthesis of the Biodiversity/Resilience/Stability Relationship in Forest Ecosystems Technical Series no. 43, 67 (Montreal, Canada, 2009).

  10. 10.

    et al. Let the concept of trait be functional! Oikos 116, 882–892 (2007).

  11. 11.

    et al. Amazonian functional diversity from forest canopy chemical assembly. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 5604–5609 (2014).

  12. 12.

    , , , & Linking plant and ecosystem functional biogeography. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 13697–13702 (2014).

  13. 13.

    et al. Regional and phylogenetic variation of wood density across 2456 neotropical tree species. Ecol. Appl. 16, 2356–2367 (2006).

  14. 14.

    et al. Functional diversity changes during tropical forest succession. Perspect. Plant Ecol. Evol. Syst. 14, 89–96 (2012).

  15. 15.

    , , , & The emergence and promise of functional biogeography. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 13690–13696 (2014).

  16. 16.

    , & Biodiversity and ecosystem stability in a decade-long grassland experiment. Nature 441, 629–632 (2006).

  17. 17.

    et al. The worldwide leaf economics spectrum. Nature 428, 821–827 (2004).

  18. 18.

    et al. The global spectrum of plant form and function. Nature 529, 167–171 (2016).

  19. 19.

    et al. Decoupled leaf and stem economics in rain forest trees. Ecol. Lett. 13, 1338–1347 (2010).

  20. 20.

    et al. Plant functional traits have globally consistent effects on competition. Nature 529, 204–207 (2016).

  21. 21.

    et al. TRY - a global database of plant traits. Glob. Change Biol. 17, 2905–2935 (2011).

  22. 22.

    et al. The next generation of scenarios for climate change research and assessment. Nature 463, 747–756 (2010).

  23. 23.

    et al. Evaluation of the HadGEM2 Model Hadley Centre technical note 74 (Met Office, 2008);

  24. 24.

    et al. Evaluation of ecosystem dynamics, plant geography and terrestrial carbon cycling in the LPJ dynamic global vegetation model. Glob. Change Biol. 9, 161–185 (2003).

  25. 25.

    et al. Simulated resilience of tropical rainforests to CO2-induced climate change. Nat. Geosci. 6, 268–273 (2013).

  26. 26.

    et al. Large trees drive forest aboveground biomass variation in moist lowland forests across the tropics. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 22, 1261–1271 (2013).

  27. 27.

    et al. The importance of wood traits and hydraulic conductance for the performance and life history strategies of 42 rainforest tree species. New Phytol. 185, 481–492 (2010).

  28. 28.

    et al. Drought impact on forest carbon dynamics and fluxes in Amazonia. Nature 519, 78–82 (2015).

  29. 29.

    et al. Hyperdominance in Amazonian forest carbon cycling. Nat. Commun. 6, 6857 (2015).

  30. 30.

    , & Next-generation dynamic global vegetation models: learning from community ecology. New Phytol. 198, 957–969 (2013).

  31. 31.

    & Leaf traits are good predictors of plant performance across 53 rain forest species. Ecology 87, 1733–1743 (2006).

  32. 32.

    et al. Modelling the role of agriculture for the 20th century global terrestrial carbon balance. Glob. Change Biol. 13, 679–706 (2007).

  33. 33.

    , , , & Terrestrial vegetation and water balance—hydrological evaluation of a dynamic global vegetation model. J. Hydrol. 286, 249–270 (2004).

  34. 34.

    et al. Contribution of permafrost soils to the global carbon budget. Environ. Res. Lett. 8, 14026 (2013).

  35. 35.

    , & Representation of vegetation dynamics in the modelling of terrestrial ecosystems: comparing two contrasting approaches within European climate space. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 10, 621–637 (2001).

  36. 36.

    & Validation of a new global 30-min drainage direction map. J. Hydrol. 258, 214–231 (2002).

  37. 37.

    IPCC Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).

  38. 38.

    & Estimating ecological production from biomass. Ecosphere 6, art49 (2015).

Download references

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank H. J. Schellnhuber, W. Lucht, S. Rahmstorf, A. Rammig, F. Langerwisch, A. Schlums (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) and Ü. Niinemets (Estonian University of Life Sciences) for helpful comments that improved the manuscript. The research leading to these results has received partial funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no 283093—The Role Of Biodiversity In climate change mitigatioN (ROBIN). J.H. acknowledges funding from the Helmholtz Alliance ‘Remote Sensing and Earth System Dynamics’. The study has been supported by the TRY initiative on plant traits (http://www.try-db.org). The TRY initiative and database is hosted, developed and maintained by J. Kattge and G. Bönisch (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany). TRY is/has been supported by DIVERSITAS, IGBP, the Global Land Project, the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) through its program QUEST (Quantifying and Understanding the Earth System), the French Foundation for Biodiversity Research (FRB), and GIS ‘Climat, Environnement et Société’ France.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, 14473 Potsdam, Germany

    • Boris Sakschewski
    • , Werner von Bloh
    • , Alice Boit
    • , Jens Heinke
    •  & Kirsten Thonicke
  2. Berlin-Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research (BBIB), 14195 Berlin, Germany

    • Boris Sakschewski
    • , Werner von Bloh
    • , Alice Boit
    • , Jens Heinke
    •  & Kirsten Thonicke
  3. Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group, Wageningen University, PO Box 47, 6700AA Wageningen, The Netherlands

    • Lourens Poorter
    •  & Marielos Peña-Claros
  4. Biodiversity Research/Specialized Botany, University Potsdam, 14469 Potsdam, Germany

    • Jasmin Joshi

Authors

  1. Search for Boris Sakschewski in:

  2. Search for Werner von Bloh in:

  3. Search for Alice Boit in:

  4. Search for Lourens Poorter in:

  5. Search for Marielos Peña-Claros in:

  6. Search for Jens Heinke in:

  7. Search for Jasmin Joshi in:

  8. Search for Kirsten Thonicke in:

Contributions

B.S., W.v.B., A.B., K.T., M.P.-C. and L.P. conceived the experiments, B.S. and W.v.B. performed the experiments and analysed the data, J.H. contributed material/analysis tools. B.S., W.v.B., A.B., K.T., M.P.-C., L.P. and J.J. co-wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Boris Sakschewski.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Information

Videos

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Movie

    Supplementary Movie

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3109