Tropical ecology

  • Article
    | Open Access

    Mangroves are adapted to cope with tropical storms, but might be threatened by rising frequency and intensity of these events. Here the authors document one of the largest mangrove diebacks on record following Hurricane Irma in Florida, and show a greater role of storm surge and ponding rather than wind as a mechanism for mangrove dieback.

    • David Lagomasino
    • , Temilola Fatoyinbo
    •  & Douglas C. Morton
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The role of non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) in mediating the impacts of drought in tropical trees is unclear. Here, the authors analyse leaf and branch NSC in 82 Amazon tree species across a Basin-wide precipitation gradient, finding that allocation of leaf NSC to soluble sugars is higher in drier sites and is coupled to tree hydraulic status.

    • Caroline Signori-Müller
    • , Rafael S. Oliveira
    •  & David Galbraith
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Ecologists predict that loss of large vertebrates will alter tropical plant communities. Here, the authors report a field experiment on seed mortality and seedling establishment in Borneo, in which experimental defaunation of large seed consumers was functionally compensated by insects and fungi.

    • Peter Jeffrey Williams
    • , Robert C. Ong
    •  & Matthew Scott Luskin
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Tree mortality has been shown to be the dominant control on carbon storage in Amazon forests, but little is known of how and why Amazon forest trees die. Here the authors analyse a large Amazon-wide dataset, finding that fast-growing species face greater mortality risk, but that slower-growing individuals within a species are more likely to die, regardless of size.

    • Adriane Esquivel-Muelbert
    • , Oliver L. Phillips
    •  & David Galbraith
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Tropical rainforests partly create their own climatic conditions by promoting precipitation, therefore rainforest losses may trigger dramatic shifts. Here the authors combine remote sensing, hydrological modelling, and atmospheric moisture tracking simulations to assess forest-rainfall feedbacks in three major tropical rainforest regions on Earth and simulate potential changes under a severe climate change scenario.

    • Arie Staal
    • , Ingo Fetzer
    •  & Obbe A. Tuinenburg
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Mangroves and the carbon they store are threatened by deforestation, but the efficacy of policies to protect them is unknown. Here the authors assess changes in mangrove carbon stocks between 1996 and 2016 and show less loss than previous methods estimated, indicating conservation has had a positive effect.

    • Daniel R. Richards
    • , Benjamin S. Thompson
    •  & Lahiru Wijedasa
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Different aspects of biodiversity may not necessarily converge in their response to climate change. Here, the authors investigate 25-year shifts in taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity of tropical forests along a spatial climate gradient in West Africa, showing that drier forests are less stable than wetter forests.

    • Jesús Aguirre-Gutiérrez
    • , Yadvinder Malhi
    •  & Imma Oliveras
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Healthy coral reefs have an acoustic signature known to be attractive to coral and fish larvae during settlement. Here the authors use playback experiments in the field to show that healthy reef sounds can increase recruitment of juvenile fishes to degraded coral reef habitat, suggesting that acoustic playback could be used as a reef management strategy.

    • Timothy A. C. Gordon
    • , Andrew N. Radford
    •  & Stephen D. Simpson
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Multiple drivers maintain unique species assemblages at multiple biogeographic scales. Here, the authors show that the freezing line is a key barrier generating evolutionary differences in temperate and tropical bird communities across a steep elevational gradient in the Himalaya.

    • Alexander E. White
    • , Kushal K. Dey
    •  & Trevor D. Price
  • Article
    | Open Access

    We know little about the relative contributions of visual and olfactory senses for wild, frugivorous mammals. Here, the authors show that in capuchin monkeys, frequency of olfactory evaluation of fruits is higher when scent production increases with ripening, and among monkeys with red-green colorblindness.

    • Amanda D. Melin
    • , Omer Nevo
    •  & Shoji Kawamura
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Artisanal fish fences are used for fishing along many tropical coastlines. Here, Exton et al. examine the impact footprint of artisanal fish fences, showing that they are highly non-selective, cause direct harm across the tropical seascape, disrupt ecological connectivity and create social conflict.

    • Dan A. Exton
    • , Gabby N. Ahmadia
    •  & David J. Smith
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Associations between corals and symbiotic microorganisms could be driven by the environment or shared evolutionary history. Here, the authors examine relationships between coral phylogenies and associated microbiomes, finding evidence of phylosymbiosis in microbes from coral skeleton and tissue, but not mucus.

    • F. Joseph Pollock
    • , Ryan McMinds
    •  & Jesse R. Zaneveld
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Disentangling multiple drivers of species declines can be difficult yet is critical to species conservation. Here, the authors parse the relative contributions of deforestation and trapping to declines of native birds in Southeast Asia, finding that the extinction risk of trapped species may be underestimated.

    • William S. Symes
    • , David P. Edwards
    •  & L. Roman Carrasco
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Degradation—the loss of carbon stored in intact woodland—is very difficult to measure over large areas. Here, the authors show that carbon emissions from degradation in African woodlands greatly exceed those from deforestation, but are happening alongside widespread increases in biomass in remote areas.

    • Iain M. McNicol
    • , Casey M. Ryan
    •  & Edward T. A. Mitchard
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Biodiversity change can impact ecosystem functioning, though this is primarily studied at lower trophic levels. Here, Schuldt et al. find that biodiversity components other than tree species richness are particularly important, and higher trophic level diversity plays a role in multifunctionality.

    • Andreas Schuldt
    • , Thorsten Assmann
    •  & Helge Bruelheide
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Rainforest conversion to plantations driven by global demand for agricultural products generates high environmental costs. Here, the authors show that the high oil palm plantation production efficiency is associated with decreased carbon storage and slower organic matter cycling that affect ecosystem services.

    • Thomas Guillaume
    • , Martyna M. Kotowska
    •  & Yakov Kuzyakov
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The expansion of agriculture and rangelands can cause ecological spillover effects across cultivated-natural ecosystem boundaries. Here, Luskin et al. show irruptions of oil palm-subsidized wild boar alter the abundance and diversity of understory trees >1 km into a primary forest reserve in Malaysia.

    • Matthew Scott Luskin
    • , Justin S. Brashares
    •  & Matthew D. Potts
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Relatively little is understood about seasonal effect of climate change on the Amazon rainforest. Here, the authors show that Amazon forest loss in response to dry-season intensification during the last glacial period was likely self-amplified by regional vegetation-rainfall feedbacks.

    • Delphine Clara Zemp
    • , Carl-Friedrich Schleussner
    •  & Anja Rammig
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Explaining species richness patterns is a key question in ecology. Peterset al. sample diverse plant and animal groups across elevation on Mt. Kilimanjaro to show that, while disparate factors drive distributions of individual taxa, diversity overall decreases with elevation, mostly driven by effects of temperature.

    • Marcell K. Peters
    • , Andreas Hemp
    •  & Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The biogeographic origins of Permian terrestrial vertebrates in high-latitude regions remain poorly understood. Here, the authors report an early Permian continental tetrapod fauna from South America in tropical Western Gondwana that constitutes a new biogeographic province with North American affinities.

    • Juan C. Cisneros
    • , Claudia Marsicano
    •  & Rudyard W. Sadleir