The forests of Amazonia are among the most biodiverse plant communities on Earth. Given the immediate threats posed by climate and land-use change, an improved understanding of how this extraordinary biodiversity is spatially organized is urgently required to develop effective conservation strategies. Most Amazonian tree species are extremely rare but a few are common across the region. Indeed, just 227 ‘hyperdominant’ species account for >50% of all individuals >10 cm diameter at 1.3 m in height. Yet, the degree to which the phenomenon of hyperdominance is sensitive to tree size, the extent to which the composition of dominant species changes with size class and how evolutionary history constrains tree hyperdominance, all remain unknown. Here, we use a large floristic dataset to show that, while hyperdominance is a universal phenomenon across forest strata, different species dominate the forest understory, midstory and canopy. We further find that, although species belonging to a range of phylogenetically dispersed lineages have become hyperdominant in small size classes, hyperdominants in large size classes are restricted to a few lineages. Our results demonstrate that it is essential to consider all forest strata to understand regional patterns of dominance and composition in Amazonia. More generally, through the lens of 654 hyperdominant species, we outline a tractable pathway for understanding the functioning of half of Amazonian forests across vertical strata and geographical locations.
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The permanently archived data package of hyperdominant species composition across size classes and regions is available from https://doi.org/10.5521/forestplots.net/2021_2
All custom analytical code used in this study are available online in a permanently archived data package at https://doi.org/10.5521/forestplots.net/2021_2
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We dedicate this study to the late Alwyn Gentry, who not only established 41 of the plots that form the foundation of our analyses but also pioneered the synthetic approach that underpins our study. This paper is a product of the RedGentry, RAINFOR, PPBio and ATDN networks. Data from many of these networks are curated by ForestPlots.net, a cyber-infrastructure initiative that unites plot records and their contributing scientists from the world’s tropical forests. These initiatives have been supported by numerous people and grants but we are indebted to hundreds of institutions, field assistants, botanists and local communities for help in establishing plots and identifying their >4,600 species. We would especially like to thank the following for their important role: E. Hase, R. Nazaré Oliveira de Araújo, S. Almeida, J. Serrano, J. Batista de Silva, K. Cangani, O. Souza Pereira, J. do Vale, M. Carmozina, E. da Costa Pereira, S. Salvino de Souza, C. Ballón Falcón, M. Corrales Medina, A. Magalhães da Silva, J. Farreras and F. Molina. F.C.D. was funded by an EU MSC global fellowship no. 794973 ‘E-FUNDIA’. F.C.D. and C.B. supported the collaborative network with funds from l’Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement (INRAE), Florida International University and the William R. Kenan, Jr Charitable Trust. Funding for field plot data collection came from a wide range of sources but particularly the following grants: Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico/Projetos Ecológicos de Longa Duração-CNPq/PELD (grant no. 441244/2016-5), Agence Nationale de la Recherche Blanc projet NEBEDIV (grant no. ANR-13-BSV7-009), an ‘Investissement d’avenir’ grant from the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (CEBA, grant no. ANR-10-LABX-25-01), a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) fellowship to T.R.B. (grant no. NE/C517484/1) and Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (grant nos. CGL2015-72431-EXP and CGL2016-75414-P). Many bodies funded the development of RAINFOR and ForestPlots.net, with key support including from NERC (grant nos. NE/F005806/1, NE/D005590/1, NE/N012542/1 and NE/N011570/1), as well as the European Research Council (grant no. T-FORCES 291585) and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (grant no. 1656) to O.L.P. This study is no. 787 of the Technical Series of the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments (BDFFP-INPA). This is an output of ForestPlots.net approved Project 26. Re-evaluating hyperdominance across tree strata in Amazonia.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Ecology & Evolution thanks Arshad Ali, Julissa Roncal and Frans Bongers for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Empirical rank abundance distribution for all species in our dataset with a diameter ≥ 2.5 cm (upper line) and ≥ 10 cm (lower line). Values on the Y axis represent mean population estimates for each species recorded in our dataset across the 106 sampling runs at the entire Amazon scale.
Extended Data Fig. 2 The mean maximum diameter of hyperdominant tree species across size classes and regions.
The mean maximum diameter of hyperdominant tree species across six size classes and five regions. Error bars represent standard deviations surrounding the mean.
Extended Data Fig. 3 The relationship between the proportion of observed hyperdominant species per family and the proportion of species richness represented by that family across the six size classes for the basin-wide dataset.
The relationship between the proportion of observed hyperdominant species per family and the proportion of species richness represented by that family across the six size classes for the basin-wide dataset. Coloured points represent families that had significantly more or significantly fewer hyperdominant species in a given size than would be expected based on the species richness of the family. All non-significant families have been shaded grey. If the number of hyperdominant species per family was driven purely by the number of species in that family then species would align along the 1:1 line (solid black line).
Extended Data Fig. 4 The observed mean pairwise phylogenetic distance (MPD) among hyperdominant species and the null distribution of MPD for an equivalent number of species across the six size classes.
The observed mean pairwise phylogenetic distance (MPD) among hyperdominant species across the six size classes (points) and the null distribution of MPD for an equivalent number of species (lines). Solid points indicate those hyperdominant communities where the observed MPD was outside two standard deviations from the mean, and therefore considered to be significant. Hollow points indicate hyperdominant communities that had a mean MPD considered to not be statistically significant, that is within 2 standard deviations of the null mean.
Box plots describing the proportion of morphotypes identified to species level across the six size classes and five study regions. The middle horizontal line with the boxes shows the median value, the top and bottom hinges of the box denote the 25th and 75th percentiles. Whiskers (vertical lines) denote the interquartile range x 1.5, and notches denote 95% confidence intervals surrounding the median.
Extended Data Fig. 6 The observed mean pairwise phylogenetic distance (MPD) among hyperdominant species and the null distribution of MPD for an equivalent number of species across the six size classes within Eudicots only.
The observed mean pairwise phylogenetic distance (MPD) among hyperdominant species across the six size classes (points) and the null distribution of MPD for an equivalent number of species (lines) within Eudicots only. Solid points indicate those hyperdominant communities where the observed MPD was outside two standard deviations from the mean, and therefore considered to be significant. Hollow points indicate hyperdominant communities that had a mean MPD considered to not be statistically significant, that is within 2 standard deviations of the null mean.
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Draper, F.C., Costa, F.R.C., Arellano, G. et al. Amazon tree dominance across forest strata. Nat Ecol Evol 5, 757–767 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-021-01418-y
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