Global change is impacting forests worldwide, threatening biodiversity and ecosystem services including climate regulation. Understanding how forests respond is critical to forest conservation and climate protection. This review describes an international network of 59 long-term forest dynamics research sites (CTFS-ForestGEO) useful for characterizing forest responses to global change. Within very large plots (median size 25 ha), all stems ?1 cm diameter are identified to species, mapped, and regularly recensused according to standardized protocols. CTFS-ForestGEO spans 25°S-61°N latitude, is generally representative of the range of bioclimatic, edaphic, and topographic conditions experienced by forests worldwide, and is the only forest monitoring network that applies a standardized protocol to each of the world's major forest biomes. Supplementary standardized measurements at subsets of the sites provide additional information on plants, animals, and ecosystem and environmental variables. CTFS-ForestGEO sites are experiencing multifaceted anthropogenic global change pressures including warming (average 0.61 °C), changes in precipitation (up to ±30% change), atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and sulfur compounds (up to 3.8 g N m(-2) yr(-1) and 3.1 g S m(-2) yr(-1) ), and forest fragmentation in the surrounding landscape (up to 88% reduced tree cover within 5 km). The broad suite of measurements made at CTFS-ForestGEO sites makes it possible to investigate the complex ways in which global change is impacting forest dynamics. Ongoing research across the CTFS-ForestGEO network is yielding insights into how and why the forests are changing, and continued monitoring will provide vital contributions to understanding worldwide forest diversity and dynamics in an era of global change.
Secondary forests cover large areas of the tropics and play an important role in the global carbon cycle. During secondary forest succession, simultaneous changes occur among stand structural attributes, soil properties, and species composition. Most studies classify tree species into categories based on their regeneration requirements. We use a high-resolution secondary forest chronosequence to assign trees to a continuous gradient in species successional status assigned according to their distribution across the chronosequence. Species successional status, not stand age or differences in stand structure or soil properties, was found to be the best predictor of leaf trait variation. Foliar ?(13)C had a significant positive relationship with species successional status, indicating changes in foliar physiology related to growth and competitive strategy, but was not correlated with stand age, whereas soil ?(13)C dynamics were largely constrained by plant species composition. Foliar ?(15)N had a significant negative correlation with both stand age and species successional status, - most likely resulting from a large initial biomass-burning enrichment in soil (15)N and (13)C and not closure of the nitrogen cycle. Foliar %C was neither correlated with stand age nor species successional status but was found to display significant phylogenetic signal. Results from this study are relevant to understanding the dynamics of tree species growth and competition during forest succession and highlight possibilities of, and potentially confounding signals affecting, the utility of leaf traits to understand community and species dynamics during secondary forest succession.
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